Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Law clerks at the Supreme Court

Some guest Volokh Conspirators have an interesting post on the history of law clerks at the Supreme Court: Disenclerking the Supreme Court.

"During this period [1940's], some Justices seem to have forged closer bonds with their clerks than with their colleagues on the Court. A Frankfurter comment is noteworthy in this regard: “They are, as it were, my junior partners—junior only in years. In the realm of the mind there is no hierarchy. I take them fully into my confidence so that the relation is free and easy.” Law clerks made perfect colleagues, it seems, or at least better colleagues than the other Justices.
In the 1960s, Associate Justices still had only two clerks each, but a rising flood of petitions and appeals soon led most Justices to hire a third. In 1972, Justice Powell requested an additional clerk, pleading his own lack of background in criminal and constitutional law. Soon, they were all entitled to have four clerks.
The importance of the clerks over the past few decades is highlighted by J. Harvie Wilkinson’s comment that “Justice Powell often said that the selection of his clerks was among the most important decisions he made during a term.” It is nowadays taken for granted that clerks play a large role in the opinion-writing process. One Justice reportedly told a clerk who asked for elaborate guidance in drafting an opinion, “If I had wanted someone to write down my thoughts, I would have hired a scrivener.”

They cite their sources: "...we rely heavily on Todd C. Peppers, Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Clerks (2006), and Artemus Ward & David Weiden, Sorcerers’ Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the Unite States Supreme Court (2006)."

Here are some papers on the market for law clerks, which is one of the best places to observe exploding offers.

In this recession year, there are unusually many applicants for appellate clerkships, and the ABA Journal reports Deluged with Clerkship Apps, Some Federal Judges Don’t Look at All of Them
" Although the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review allows judges to sort applications by characteristics such as law school and law journal experience, a number of judges prefer to look only at applications from individuals who come recommended by others they know or review mailed applications only..."
"Slightly more than 400,000 applications were made for 1,244 clerkships, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. However, many applicants submitted dozens of applications."

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