Alumnus Clerks for Supreme Court of Israel

Imagine living in a country at the crossroads of the world’s three major religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Now imagine that country is roughly the size of New Jersey, the fifth-smallest U.S. state. That is Israel’s precarious position—and it’s exactly what inspired Seth Heller, JD ’08, and current associate at Arnold & Porter LLP, to seek a clerkship in Israel’s Supreme Court. 

“I was specifically drawn to the Supreme Court of Israel because of the unique conditions there,” Heller says. “Israel deals with an almost incomprehensible combination of political, legal, and national security issues simply because it is such a small country in such a volatile part of the world. 

“Professionally and personally, I thought that gaining an international perspective would be a positive experience for me,” he adds. “I had the opportunity to develop both perspectives through the lens of a clerk on Israel’s Supreme Court.” 

Having previously clerked at the federal trial and federal appellate levels, Heller is no stranger to clerking in powerful courts. His first clerkship was with Judge Christine O.C. Miller at the United States Court of Federal Claims. He then worked at a large well-known intellectual property firm in Washington, before clerking for Chief Judge Randall R. Rader on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where all patent appeals in the United States are heard. At the Supreme Court of Israel, he clerked for Justice Asher D. Grunis, the new president (chief justice) of the Court. 

Heller says he was particularly surprised by the sheer volume of cases that come before the Supreme Court of Israel. “The court hears thousands of cases a year, and it is the court of first and last resort for some of the most difficult human rights issues in the world,” he says. 

For example, one case concerned families of terror attack victims who were attempting to prevent a deal for the release of a captured Israeli soldier in exchange for hundreds of prisoners. Another addressed a law that denies Palestinian spouses of Israelis an automatic right to live together in Israel.  

Aside from being eye-opening, Heller says the experience taught him a lot about what Israeli companies look for in U.S. patent attorneys.“Like other companies around the world, Israeli corporations want attorneys who are straightforward, hardworking, efficient, and confident, but Israeli companies in particular value attorneys with scientific expertise,” he says. “Israel’s technology sector is amazingly robust and ever-growing. Per capita, Israel files more patents than any country in the world.”  

With an undergraduate degree in biology from Grinnell College and a master's degree in biology from Washington University, it is not surprising that Heller was pleased to find the life science industries flourishing in Israel. He also noted that Israel has some “amazing defense technology that has, at times, led to important advances outside of the military context.” For example, he notes that the unique bandage many credit with saving Arizona Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s life was an Israeli invention, created to treat combat injuries. 

Now settled back in Washington, D.C., as a member of Arnold & Porter LLP’s  intellectual property group,  Heller’s practice focuses on patent litigation and other areas of intellectual property.   


By Timothy J. Fox