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Sorcerers' Apprentices


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Table of Contents

IllustrationsAcknowledgments Preface: Awesome Responsibility and Complete Subservience 1 Introduction: The Institutionalization of the Supreme Court Law Clerk 2 A Great Ordeal: Selecting Supreme Court Law Clerks 3 The Junior Court: Deciding to Decide 4 Decision Making: Mission-Inspired Crusaders? 5 Opinion Writing: From Research Assistants to Junior Justices 6 Conclusion: Sorcerers' Apprentices Appendix A. "Memorandum for the Law Clerks" from the Chambers of Chief Justice Earl Warren Appendix B. Letter from Stephen G. Breyer to Earl Warren, October 6, 1963 Appendix C. Letter from John Minor Wisdom to Hugo Black, October 15, 1965 Appendix D. Justice Harry A. Blackmun's Talking Points for Interviewing Prospective Law Clerks Appendix E. Memorandum from Molly McUsic to Harry A. Blackmun, re: Certiorari Petition,Planned Parenthood v. Casey, January 4, 1992 Appendix F. Memorandum from Stephanie A.Dangel to Harry A. Blackmun, June 26, 1992 Appendix G. United States Supreme CourtLaw Clerk Questionnaire Notes BibliographyIndex About the Authors

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.


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.

"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.""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"Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden argue that the clerks have more power than they used to have, and probably more power than they should." --Washington Post"The book contains a wealth of historical information... A reader can learn a lot from this pioneering study." --Cleveland Plain Dealer"Meticulous in scholarship... Sorcerers' Apprentices presents convincing statistical evidence that the aggregate time that law clerks spend on certiorari memos has fallen considerably because of the reduction in the number of memos written by each clerk." --Judge Richard A. Posner in The New Republic"Based on judicial working papers and extensive interviews, the authors have compiled the most complete picture to date of the transformation of Supreme Court law clerks from stenographers to ghost-writers. This will instantly become an essential resource for students of the Court." --Dennis J. Hutchinson, editor of The Supreme Court Review"A truly excellent study on an interesting and important question. As we know from the popularity of The Brethren and Closed Chambers, people love insider accounts of Supreme Court decision making, and this book provides that from a very unique point of view." --Howard Gillman, author of The Votes That Counted: How the Court Decided the 2000 Presidential Election"An urgently needed and highly readable study of the most powerful young lawyers in America: law clerks at the Supreme Court. Law clerks themselves tend to vastly overstate or underestimate their importance, but authors Artemus Ward and David Weiden have gotten it just right: law clerks wield significant and growing power at the nation's highest court. This eye-opening book charts that growth and points to the potential for abuse." --Tony Mauro, Supreme Court Correspondent for American Lawyer Media"...[E]xceptionally informative in tracing the history of the institution of the Supreme Court clerks. The analysis of the evolution of both the job and the influence that clerks have on the Court's decisions." --Georgia Bar Journal

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