Federal Courts choose four Penn State Law students for clerkships

Crystal Stryker
March 18, 2013

Competition for federal clerkships is fierce and this year four members of the Class of 2013 received offers for prestigious post-graduation clerkships. “A clerkship is a fantastic way to refine one’s skills and marketability,” said Kenny Tatum, dean of Career Planning & Development at Penn State Law. “Considering the thousands of students competing for these roles we are pleased that four individuals were chosen from our school.” (A fourth student, not profiled here, received a post-graduation clerkship offer from a federal judge and has a deferred start date.) 

Sarah Hyser will clerk for Judge William W. Caldwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, who is also a graduate of The Dickinson School of Law, Class of 1951. Hyser, who is executive articles editor of the Penn State Law Review, explained that landing a clerkship after graduation required hard work, careful planning and good grades. Her advice to first-year students interested in clerkships is to “spend the summer interning for a district court; try to work in the one you want to work in post-graduation.”

Sarah Hyser

A Gettysburg native, Hyser wanted to make herself marketable in central Pennsylvania, and tried to build work experience and contacts in the area. After her first year, she clerked for Judge Yvette Kane of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. There, she met chief clerk Dominic Rupprecht, ’10, who became a mentor. “He really helped me understand how chambers work and what the expectations are,” she said. Rupprecht is now an associate at Jones Day in Pittsburgh. After her second year summer, she worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office through the Department of Justice summer program. Now, she is spending her last semester as an extern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where she provides litigation support to Assistant U.S. Attorneys in civil and criminal matters.

Education: Bachelor of arts, political science, University of Rochester 
Recent Publication: “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: How Federal Courts Took the 'Fair' Out of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010,” Penn State Law Review 
Dream Job: Federal prosecutor

1st Lt. Mark McCormick-Goodhart

As editor-in-chief of the Penn State Law Review and a U.S. Marine Corps officer, McCormick-Goodhart is accustomed to deadlines and a demanding schedule. He is one of about 150 commissioned Marine Corps officers enrolled in law school nationwide. “I had a choice: flight school or law school. And I didn’t trust myself with planes,” he said. After graduation, McCormick-Goodhart will serve as a law clerk to Judge Kim R. Gibson, ’75, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Judge Gibson was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 23, 2003. 

After his first year of law school, McCormick-Goodhart clerked for Judge Kevin A. Hess, ’72, of the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas in Carlisle, Pa. He then interned at the U.S. Army War College Office of the Post Judge Advocate under the supervision of Captain Jessica Guise, ’04.  McCormick-Goodhart also took advantage of the federal judicial externship program during his second and third years of law school, serving as an extern for Judge Christopher C. Conner, ’82, of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

“I think the federal judicial externship program is the best-kept secret here,” he said. “There’s almost nothing better than having a federal judge as a mentor during law school.” McCormick-Goodhart was pleased to discover that Judge Gibson offers one-year clerkships — the longest clerkship deferment permitted by the Marine Corps — because federal clerkships are often two-year commitments. “I am very excited to work for Judge Gibson. He’s a retired U.S. Army Colonel, a former state trial court judge, and an active community volunteer. I have a lot to learn from him.” Graduating from West Point in 1970, Judge Gibson, ’75, commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and later served as an active-duty judge advocate until 1978. 

After concluding his one-year clerkship, McCormick-Goodhart will attend Naval Justice School in Newport, R.I., and will eventually serve as an active-duty judge advocate on a detail determined by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Education: Bachelor of arts, economics, with honors, Grinnell College 
Volunteer Work: Volunteer work: Wills for Heroes, Carlisle, Pa. 
Recent Publication: Recent publication: “Leaving No Veteran Behind: Policies and Perspectives on Combat Trauma, Veterans Courts, and the Rehabilitative Approach to Criminal Behavior,” Penn State Law Review

Christopher Polchin

Christopher Polchin will work in the chambers of Judge Yvette Kane of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He thinks he will enjoy time in the courtroom as well as litigation; he spent a summer working in the offices of Cohen, Seglias, Pallas, Greenhall & Furman in Philadelphia after his second year and is now a student in the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic. He also has a minor in theater, which he thinks is good preparation for trial advocacy.

Polchin describes the clerkship selection process as “intense” but he is pleased with the results. "Career Services staff members were incredibly helpful; they sent reminders and emails at every step of the way for every deadline,” said Polchin, who is also a senior editor of the Penn State Law Review.

In his first year summer, Polchin interned for Judge James Knoll Gardner of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The summer in Allentown allowed him to research and draft opinions and orders on a variety of matters and see deliberations between Judge Gardner and his clerks.

Education: Bachelor of arts, political science, summa cum laude, Susquehanna University 
Before law school: Amazon.com Fulfillment Center, Hazleton, Pa., and Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa., (sound board operator and costume character performer) 
Recent Publication: “Raising the 'Bar' on Law School Data Reporting: Solutions to the Transparency Problem” Penn State Law Review.



  • Sarah Hyser, 1st Lt. Mark McCormick-Goodhart, and Christopher Polchin are third-year students at Penn State Law.
    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Sarah Hyser is a member of the Penn State Law Class of 2013.
    IMAGE: Pam Knowlton
  • 1st Lt. Mark McCormick-Goodhart is a member of the Penn State Law Class of 2013.
    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Christopher Polchin
    IMAGE: Pam Knowlton
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Last Updated July 22, 2015