Sorcerers' Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court

Sorcerers' Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court

by David Weiden, Artemus Ward
     
 

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Law clerks have been a permanent fixture in the halls of the United States Supreme Court from its founding, but the relationship between clerks and their justices has generally been cloaked in secrecy. While the role of the justice is both public and formal, particularly in terms of the decisions a justice makes and the power that he or she can wield in the

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Overview

Law clerks have been a permanent fixture in the halls of the United States Supreme Court from its founding, but the relationship between clerks and their justices has generally been cloaked in secrecy. While the role of the justice is both public and formal, particularly in terms of the decisions a justice makes and the power that he or she can wield in the American political system, the clerk has historically operated behind closed doors. Do clerks make actual decisions that they impart to justices, or are they only research assistants that carry out the instructions of the decision makers—the justices?

Based on Supreme Court archives, the personal papers of justices and other figures at the Supreme Court, and interviews and written surveys with 150 former clerks, Sorcerers’ Apprentices is a rare behind-the-scenes look at the life of a law clerk, and how it has evolved since its nineteenth-century beginnings. Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden reveal that throughout history, clerks have not only written briefs, but made significant decisions about cases that are often unseen by those outside of justices' chambers. Should clerks have this power, they ask, and, equally important, what does this tell us about the relationship between the Supreme Court’s accountability to and relationship with the American public?

Sorcerers’ Apprentices not only sheds light on the little-known role of the clerk but offers provocative suggestions for reforming the institution of the Supreme Court clerk. Anyone that has worked as a law clerk, is considering clerking, or is interested in learning about what happens in the chambers of Supreme Court justices will want to read this engaging and comprehensive examination of how the role of the law clerk has evolved over its long history.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ward (political science, Northern Illinois Univ., Dekalb) and Weiden (government, Illinois State Univ., Normal) examine the close relationships between Supreme Court justices and their clerks during the modern era, demonstrating that clerks have played an important, though often hidden, role in the decision-making process of the justices. Using copious statistical analysis, replete with pie charts and bar graphs, the authors point out that clerks are most influential in the certiorari process, by which the Court decides which cases to call up for review from the lower benches. They note that the power and influence of the clerks has steadily increased, starting from virtually nil in the 1930s to the current more heterogeneous nature of the Rehnquist (and now Roberts) Court. The clerks themselves now represent a more broad-based crosssection of academia and society, while their numbers and responsibilities have increased. Important rulings on issues such as civil rights, affirmative action, and abortion are owing partly to activist clerks who pressed the justices to review cases of relevance to minorities and women, two groups whose members became clerks decades before their counterparts were appointed to the High Court. Overall, the book provides excellent insight into the inner workings of the Supreme Court, how it selects cases for review, what pressures are brought to bear on the justices, and how the final opinions are produced. Recommended for academic libraries.-Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., First Judicial Dist., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814794746
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
04/01/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,059,917
File size:
3 MB

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