SCOTUSblog on Chilton and Rozema's Research on Clerks' Influence on Judges

Forthcoming paper on influence of law clerks recalls Rehnquist article from 1957

William Rehnquist – writing in a 1957 issue of U.S. News & World Report, four years after clerking for Justice Robert Jackson and 14 years before becoming a justice himself – called this the “common-sense view of the relationship between Justice and clerk” and noted the “complete absence of any known evidence of such influence.”

A paper recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization – “Legal Rasputins? Law Clerk Influence on Voting at the U.S. Supreme Court,” which takes Rehnquist’s quote as an epigraph – claims to offer the evidence that Rehnquist found lacking. (The paper looks at cases decided between 1960 and 2009, a period after Rehnquist’s clerkship from February 1952 to June 1953.)

Authors Adam Bonica, Adam Chilton, Jacob Goldin, Kyle Rozema and Maya Sen “find that clerks exert a modest but statistically significant effect on how justices vote”: “To interpret the magnitude of this effect, our estimate suggests that, on average, a justice would cast approximately 4% more conservative votes in a term when employing his or her most conservative clerks, as compared to a term in which the justice employs his or her most liberal clerks.”

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