Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stras on Influence of U.S. Supreme Court Law Clerks

A follow-up on the two SSRN articles on law clerk influence, which we discussed and linked at this spot.  Now David R. Stras (Minnesota, Law) has posted this Review Essay on SSRN, "The Supreme Court's Gatekeepers: The Role of Law Clerks in the Certiorari Process."  It reviews two books on the role and impact of Supreme Court law clerks, including one by a Zorn-less Todd Peppers (whose paper with Zorn we cited).  Stras goes beyond mere "book review" and independently examines cert pools for various years -- and suggests clerks do influence certiorari decisions.  Abstract after the jump.  [Alan Childress]

The Essay will be published in Texas Law Review, vol. 85.

His abstract reads, in full:

This Review Essay compares and evaluates two recent books on Supreme Court Law clerks, "Courtiers of the Marble Palace" by Todd Peppers and "Sorcerers' Apprentices" by Artemus Ward and David Weiden. Both books add to the understanding of the role of law clerks within the Supreme Court - Courtiers through its primarily historical approach and Sorcerers' Apprentices through its more ambitious statistical approach.

This Review Essay also reports the results from the first empirical examination of every pool memo from four Terms of the Supreme Court: October Terms 1984, 1985, 1991 and 1992. Three characteristics of the cert pool become apparent: (1) it is stingy with respect to making grant recommendations; (2) it emphasizes objective criteria of certworthiness in making its recommendations, such as the presence of lower court conflict; and (3) there is statistical evidence suggesting that its recommendations are correlated with the eventual decisions made by the Court on petitions for certiorari.


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