JAMES LEWIS ’07: J/MS alum excels as federal law clerk

James Lewis clerks at U.S. District Court in Trenton. Photo provided by James Lewis

By Elizabeth Walter —

Recent efforts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey have been a hot topic around the Garden State. Gov. Chris Christie fought hard in court to legalize sports betting, but Judge Michael Shipp recently upheld a 21-year-old law banning it. Assisting Judge Shipp as law clerk on this momentous case was James A. Lewis, J/MS 2007.

Lewis, currently a law clerk for the U.S. District Court in Trenton, worked countless hours on the case.

“It was interesting to deal with so many talented attorneys on novel arguments of law,” Lewis noted. “I enjoyed blending theory and practicality in analyzing the arguments being made before the court.”

In the prestigious position, Lewis considers his primary role to immerse himself in the law and draft opinions accordingly.

“As a law clerk, I have the benefit of seeing some of the best and brightest attorneys argue before the court,” Lewis notes. “In my opinion, the best part of being a law clerk is assisting in the interpretation and dissection of law.”

Lewis has worked on many varied cases. However, he finds the cases that speak to constitutional law the most interesting.

“It is always fun to try to stand in the shoes of the founders and think about what they must have envisioned for the future of this country,” Lewis explained.

Lewis appreciates that he works as a law clerk in a collegial atmosphere.

“Accordingly, I am constantly thinking about different ways to express an idea, fact or component of law,” Lewis said.

Lewis, a double major in Journalism and Media Studies as well as Psychology, said his J/MS experience not only prepared him for a successful academic and professional career but also gave him the opportunity to meet his wife Sharmaine.

Lewis and Sharmaine, who married on Sept. 2, 2012, met during their first year in college. They had a lot in common from the start as they both participated in the Livingston College Honors Program, and both were recipients of the James Dickson Carr Scholarship, which honors the first African-American Rutgers graduate.

While at Rutgers, Lewis was in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He also volunteered with Carr for the World and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program, which he recommends to everyone.

His first step toward journalism was taking Professor Steve Miller’s class freshman year, and it was in that class he knew he was in the right program of study.

“Every class was a thrill ride,” Lewis said with a smile.

Lewis also worked with J/MS Professor Robert Kubey on his honors thesis, which was about media representations of African-Americans.

Deciding against a career in journalism, Lewis began working toward his juris doctorate at Hofstra University School of Law, where he earned his J.D. in 2010.

Lewis felt fully prepared for law school, thanks to his J/MS education, where he learned how to write in a comprehensive yet succinct manner, a skill that has served him well throughout law school and his present job.

After ending his clerkship this September, Lewis will decide whether he will go into private practice or work for a company. He has definitely settled, though, on the field of employment law.

“It is a way for me to help others,” Lewis explained. “I have always been inspired by those who effectively bring about change. In this economy, employment is more important than ever.”