Sorcerers' Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court [NOOK Book]

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 ...

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

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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.
From the Publisher

“Well-written, needed, and nicely done.”
-Choice

,

“Ward and Weiden have produced that rare book that is both a meticulous piece of scholarship and a good read. The authors have . . . sifted through a varied and voluminous amount of archival material, winnowing out the chaff and leaving the excellent wheat for our consumption. They marry this extensive archival research with original survey data, using both to great effect.”
-Law and Politics Book Review

,

“Helps illuminate the inner workings of an institution that is still largely shrouded in mystery.”
-The Wall Street Journal Online

,

“The main quibble . . . with contemporary law clerks is that they wield too much influence over their justices’ opinion-writing. Artemus and Weiden broaden this concern to the clerks’ influence on the thinking of the justices about how to decide cases.”
-Slate.com

,

“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 all academic libraries.”
-Library Journal

,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814794746
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2006
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author


Artemus Ward is assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, and author of Deciding To Leave: The Politics of Retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court.


David L. Weiden is assistant professor of politics and government and director of the legal studies program at Illinois State University.

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Table of Contents


Illustrations     ix
Acknowledgments     xiii
Preface: Awesome Responsibility and Complete Subservience     i
Introduction: The Institutionalization of the Supreme Court Law Clerk     21
A Great Ordeal: Selecting Supreme Court Law Clerks     54
The Junior Court: Deciding to Decide     109
Decision Making: Mission-Inspired Crusaders?     150
Opinion Writing: From Research Assistants to Junior Justices     200
Conclusion: Sorcerers' Apprentices     237
"Memorandum for the Law Clerks" from the Chambers of Chief Justice Earl Warren     251
Letter from Stephen G. Breyer to Earl Warren, October 6, 1963     264
Letter from John Minor Wisdom to Hugo Black, October 15, 1965     265
Justice Harry A. Blackmun's Talking Points for Interviewing Prospective Law Clerks     267
Memorandum from Molly McUsic to Harry A. Blackmun, re: Certiorari Petition, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, January 4, 1992     269
Memorandum from Stephanie A. Dangel to Harry A. Blackmun, June 26, 1992     273
United States Supreme Court Law Clerk Questionnaire     275
Notes     281
Bibliography     313
Index     321
About the Authors     337
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