For those of us who find Supreme Court clerk hiring news "more riveting than any offering on reality television" -- okay, Project Runway comes close -- this New York Times article, by Linda Greenhouse, is a must-read. Here's the key take-away:
Everyone knows that with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the number of female Supreme Court justices fell by half. The talk of the court this summer, with the arrival of the new crop of law clerks, is that the number of female clerks has fallen even more sharply.
Just under 50 percent of new law school graduates in 2005 were women. Yet women account for only 7 of the 37 law clerkships for the new term, the first time the number has been in the single digits since 1994, when there were 4,000 fewer women among the country’s new law school graduates than there are today.
Oh, tell Article III Groupie all about it! But A3G won't engage in conspiracy-theorizing. Even the liberal justices don't blame the drop in female law clerks on anything nefarious:
Here's one explanation that has been floated:
Some speculated that Justice Antonin Scalia, who hired only two women among 28 law clerks during the last seven years and who will have none this year, could not find enough conservative women to meet his test of ideological purity. (Justice Clarence Thomas will also have no female clerks this year, but over the preceding six years hired 11.)
Interesting. It's certainly true that Justice Scalia hasn't hired many women over the years. Last Term's crew was all-male, as is this Term. Does anyone have any inside information on this? If so, please drop A3G a line. (If you just have speculation, no need to write; A3G can speculate as well as anyone.)
Digression: One of the two women hired by AS in the past seven years is Susan Kearns, whose NYT wedding announcement A3G dissected here. She is still at Kirkland & Ellis, where she is up for (non-equity) partnership soon. Mr. Susan Kearns -- a.k.a. Steven Engel, himself a former Kennedy clerk -- recently left Kirkland for a high-powered post as Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Counsel. (The AAG at OLC -- a.k.a. Headmaster of the Finishing School for the Elect -- is former Thomas clerk Steven Bradbury, whose confirmation has been held up by the Senate Democrats, for political reasons unrelated to Bradbury himself. Naughty Democrats!
By the way, it's interesting to see an article on law clerk hiring coming from the keyboard of Linda Greenhouse. She tends to write less about the Elect than Supreme Court reporters for other top newspapers. And sometimes NYT articles about SCOTUS clerks are penned by other Times reporters -- like this one, by Adam Liptak.
Greenhouse drops a hint as to why she doesn't like to write about clerks that much. In today's article, she can't resist trying to pop the bubble of beliefs about the influence of the Elect at One First Street:
They do not, contrary to myth — propagated in part by law clerks themselves — run the court. They do play a significant role in screening new cases, though, and they help their justices in preparing for argument and in drafting opinions.
C'mon, Linda, don't be such a party pooper!
Of course, taking the clerks down a notch is in Greenhouse's own self-interest. Among the Supreme Court press, she's widely envied for having the best access to the justices themselves (several of whom she quotes in today's Times piece). So diminishing the role played at the Court by law clerks relative to justices is self-aggrandizing for Greenhouse: she relies upon clerkly sources much less than the SCOTUS reporters who are her closest competition.
But even grumpy Greenhouse can't deny the value of the Supreme Court clerkship as a credential (literally, not just figuratively):
While their pay is a modest $63,335 for their year of service, a Supreme Court clerkship is money in the bank: the clerks are considered such a catch that law firms are currently paying each one they hire a signing bonus of $200,000.
Okay, time for an announcement: Supreme Court clerk profiles are coming back! Just as she did last year, A3G will prepare a series of profiles for all current members of the Elect. (Links to the October Term 2005 profiles are collected near the end of this post, the last in the series.)
So don't delay. Please send fun facts -- and interesting tidbits of gossip -- about any current Supreme Court clerk to Article Three Groupie, by email. She will take the best of what you send her, do some poking around of her own, and deliver the results over the next few weeks (going chambers by chambers, as she did last year).
Thanks in advance for your delicious contributions, which make UTR possible. Have a fun and restful Labor Day weekend!