Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Extreme Stealth Marketing?

I was reading a post at Minnesota Litigator this morning and clicked on one of the links in the post. The particular link was for the Wikipedia biography of Raymond Gruender, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Judge Gruender's biography includes the names, law school, and, apparently, the current employer of all of his former law clerks.

It occurred to me that I had never noticed a former law clerks section as part of a judge's Wikipedia page before. I wondered whether this was a new feature on Wikipedia. So, I decided to see whether the biographies for the other judges on the Eighth Circuit identified law clerks. Not counting judges on senior status, there are ten other judges on the Eighth Circuit. In no particular order, they are: Kermit Bye, William Riley, Diana Murphy, Roger Wollman, James Loken, Michael Melloy, Levanski Smith, Steven Colloton, William Benton, and Bobby Shepherd. You may be interested to learn that none of the biographies for these judges identifies their former law clerks. Listing former law clerks does not seem like a new feature.

Looking at Wikipedia's revision page for Judge Gruender, it looks like someone started adding Judge Gruender's former clerks in August 2007. Before August 7, 2007, Judge Gruender's biography looked a lot like the biographies of his fellow Eigthth Circuit judges. It appears to me that 15 different users made a whopping 52 entries regarding Judge Gruender's former clerks.

Given that no other Eighth Circuit judge has this information on their Wikipedia page, it seems to me that the former law clerks section of Judge Gruender's page was created by someone on the judge's staff or by a former law clerk. I wonder why someone would include this information. Does knowing the former law clerk give new insight into the judge's opinions? Is it some sort of thank you for a job well done? Is it some sort of odd marketing campaign? I guess I can imagine a situation where someone says "I want to hire a former law clerk of Judge Gruender. I'm going to look on Wikipedia to see if there is a list of his former law clerks." However, I don't think that situation is very likely. Is there another reason to list a judge's former law clerks? Finally, do you think the Wikipedia page for this former federal judge should list his former law clerks?

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