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In fact, none of the justices works completely in an ideological bubble. While their numerous opinions have revealed certain ideological tendencies, they still consider each case as it comes to them, and they don’t always rule in a consistently predictable or expected way. Furthermore, they don’t work exclusively on their own. Each justice has three or four law clerks, recent law school graduates who temporarily work for him or her, do research, help prepare the justice with background information, and assist with the writing of opinions. The law clerks’ work and recommendations influence whether the justices will choose to hear a case, as well as how they will rule. As the profile below reveals, the role of the clerks is as significant as it is varied.

Profile of a united states supreme court clerk

A Supreme Court clerkship is one of the most sought-after legal positions, giving “thirty-six young lawyers each year a chance to leave their fingerprints all over constitutional law.”

Dahlia Lithwick. “Who Feeds the Supreme Court?” Slate.com . September 14, 2015. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/09/supreme_court_feeder_judges_men_and_few_women_send_law_clerks_to_scotus.html.
A number of current and former justices were themselves clerks, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, and former chief justice William Rehnquist.

Supreme Court clerks are often reluctant to share insider information about their experiences, but it is always fascinating and informative to hear about their jobs. Former clerk Philippa Scarlett , who worked for Justice Stephen Breyer, describes four main responsibilities:

“Role of Supreme Court Law Clerk: Interview with Philippa Scarlett.” IIP Digital . United States of America Embassy. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/publication/2013/02/20130211142365.html#axzz3grjRwiG (March 1, 2016).

Review the cases: Clerks participate in a “ cert. pool” (short for writ of certiorari , a request that the lower court send up its record of the case for review) and make recommendations about which cases the Court should choose to hear.

Prepare the justices for oral argument: Clerks analyze the filed briefs (short arguments explaining each party’s side of the case) and the law at issue in each case waiting to be heard.

Research and draft judicial opinions: Clerks do detailed research to assist justices in writing an opinion, whether it is the majority opinion or a dissenting or concurring opinion.

Help with emergencies: Clerks also assist the justices in deciding on emergency applications to the Court, many of which are applications by prisoners to stay their death sentences and are sometimes submitted within hours of a scheduled execution.

Explain the role of law clerks in the Supreme Court system. What is your opinion about the role they play and the justices’ reliance on them?

How the supreme court selects cases

The Supreme Court begins its annual session on the first Monday in October and ends late the following June. Every year, there are literally thousands of people who would like to have their case heard before the Supreme Court, but the justices will select only a handful to be placed on the docket    , which is the list of cases scheduled on the Court’s calendar. The Court typically accepts fewer than 2 percent of the as many as ten thousand cases it is asked to review every year.

“Supreme Court Procedures.” United States Courts . http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/supreme-1 (March 1, 2016).

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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