Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk

Overview


Since the hiring of the first Supreme Court law clerk by Associate Justice Horace Gray in the late 1880s, court observers and the general public have demonstrated a consistent fascination with law clerks and the influence—real or imagined—that they wield over judicial decisions. While initially each Supreme Court justice hired a single clerk, today's justices can hire up to four new law school graduates. The justices have taken advantage of this resource, and in modern times law clerks have been given greater ...
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Overview


Since the hiring of the first Supreme Court law clerk by Associate Justice Horace Gray in the late 1880s, court observers and the general public have demonstrated a consistent fascination with law clerks and the influence—real or imagined—that they wield over judicial decisions. While initially each Supreme Court justice hired a single clerk, today's justices can hire up to four new law school graduates. The justices have taken advantage of this resource, and in modern times law clerks have been given greater job duties and more responsibility. The increased use of law clerks has spawned a controversy about the role they play, and commentators have suggested that liberal or conservative clerks influence their justices' decision making. The influence debate is but one piece of a more important and largely unexamined puzzle regarding the hiring and utilization of Supreme Court law clerks.

Courtiers of the Marble Palace is the first systematic examination of the "clerkship institution"—the web of formal and informal norms and rules surrounding the hiring and utilization of law clerks by the individual justices on the United States Supreme Court. Todd Peppers provides an unprecedented view into the work lives of and day-to-day relationships between justices and their clerks; relationships that in some cases have extended to daily breakfasts, games of competitive basketball and tennis, and occasional holiday celebrations. Through personal interviews with fifty-three former clerks and correspondence with an additional ninety, as well as personal interviews with a number of non-clerks, including Justice Antonin Scalia, Peppers has amassed a body of information that reveals the true inner-workings of the clerkship institution.

With a Foreword by Professor Robert M. O'Neil of the University of Virginia School of Law, former President of the University of Virginia and former law clerk for Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Peppers (public affairs, Roanoke Coll.) here traces the modern institution of Supreme Court clerks. He shows how the duties of the law clerk expanded with the unprecedented caseload increases that began in the late 19th century, Justice Horace Gray having hired the first "legal secretary" in 1882. With the support of graphic statistical analysis, he illustrates the trends of the law clerks' responsibilities, comparing tasks under various justices over the last 120 years. A sophisticated and compelling portrait emerges of the role of "stenographic clerks" who evolved to become men and women called upon to review appellate records and report back with their own independent thoughts. Peppers scours the historical record to discern evidence of clerks actually affecting the outcome of a decision via personal persuasion, ultimately concluding that there's no direct evidence to support the vision of a law clerk twisting his mentor's arm sufficiently to sway a majority opinion. His analysis, however, clearly indicates a level of collegiality between justices and clerks at a highly personal-if still professional-level, with one relationship rumored to be intimate. Peppers's evaluation of clerical influence goes beyond Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden's recent Sorcerers' Apprentices, which focuses on who the clerks have been and how they functioned, without evaluating their influence in shaping the direction of the Court. Ward and Weiden imply a more tacit role for the clerks over the years as an influence upon constitutional interpretation. In this manner, the two books complement each other, together representing the most exhaustive analysis of Supreme Court law clerks to date. Peppers's book is highly recommended for academic libraries.-Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Law clerks have come to play an integral part in the work of the Supreme Court, and their role attracts considerable attention. Todd Peppers uses a rich body of information to illuminate who the clerks are and what they do in their work for the justices. Courtiers of the Marble Palace shows how and why the role of the clerks has evolved over the past century. In doing so it greatly enhances our understanding of Supreme Court clerkships and tells us much about the Court itself."—Lawrence Baum, Ohio State University

"This long-awaited book fills a huge gap in Supreme Court scholarship; information about Supreme Court clerks has heretofore been only patchy and anecdotal. Peppers's systematic efforts to gather information about this subject while remaining sensitive to the confidential relationship between Justices and their clerks pays off handsomely. The data he has gleaned through careful research are analyzed in a skillful and useful manner. Peppers's chapters on the stenographers and early clerks of the late nineteenth century are a particularly valuable contribution to Supreme Court history."—Clare Cushman, Supreme Court Historical Society

"This is a meticulous work of historical scholarship, tracing the evolution of the Supreme Court law clerk from its beginnings in the nineteenth century up to the present day. Refreshingly free of the gossip, politics, and rumors that have disfigured previous accounts of this important institution, the book manages to be not only scrupulous, but fascinating."—Richard Posner, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

"This unique history of Supreme Court law clerks is a surprise gift to anyone who is fascinated by the Court as an institution. We have read or heard the recollections of individual clerks, but none of them could possibly tell this remarkable story of how the intimate work habits and thought processes of the Justices have evolved and been profoundly transformed over the last century."—Charles A. Reich, Yale Law School, former law clerk for Justice Hugo L. Black

"This is a fine piece of work, well and clearly written, and definitive as to the history and development of the position and work of Supreme Court law clerks. . . . It provides excellent background for understanding current debates about the role and influence of the clerks."—Steven Wasby, State University of New York at Albany

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804753814
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2006
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Todd C. Peppers is Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Affairs at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.
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