Pub. Date:
New York University Press
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

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814794203
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 01/01/2007
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.84(d)

About 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.

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

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

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


“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.”


“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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Sorcerers' Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A book ten years in the making, Sorcerers¿ Apprentices is an intriguing and sometimes unsettling look at the world of law clerks. Most people know precious little about this field. Ward and Weiden provide an eye-opener. Being a law clerk is to basically be a research assistant for a judge. Being that the United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, being a clerk for an U.S. Supreme Court judge (a `Justice¿) is the pinnacle in this field. As former clerks to a Supreme Court Justice, these young men and women will be the most sought after candidates at law firms across the country. Many will later be offered judgeships themselves. After a decade of research, pouring through the personal papers of justices and court employees, and interviews with former clerks, the authors discovered that the law clerk went from being little more than a secretary in the 1930¿s to a position of enormous power today. Perhaps the greatest power is in the ¿certiorari process¿ of choosing what cases the Supreme Court will hear. Of the over 8,000 cases submitted annually to the Supreme Court, only a few hundred perhaps will be heard. It would appear that the law clerks suggestions to their respective Justices on which cases to hear has had a great impact on the types of cases heard. And changes on the constitutionality of specific laws in specific areas literally changes people¿s lives. Another issue of concern is that for some Justices, the bulk of their decisions may come not from legal research, but from the opinions written by their law clerks. Some have gone so far as to say that in some cases it is the law clerk who actually writes the final opinion the Justice simply signing it. Others point out that the opinions expressed verbally by law clerks to their Justice may actually hold more sway over a decision than the attorneys presenting the case. Filled with quotes, text, research, analyses, and charts galore, Sorcerers¿ Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court is a revealing look at the workings of the U.S. Supreme Court. It sheds light on an institution that few in America have any knowledge about, but that affects us all. Ward and Weiden present nearly as many questions in this book as they do insights. Do law clerks have more power than they used to? Do they have more power than they should? Should this be rectified, and if so, how? In the end, Sorcerers¿ Apprentices is a fascinating look at a world few ever see.