Eliminating the law clerks would ... make them more “independent” than they really want to be, by ending their debilitating reliance on twentysomething law-school graduates. Perhaps best of all, it would effectively shorten their tenure by forcing them to do their own work, making their jobs harder and inducing them to retire before power corrupts absolutely or decrepitude sets in.I heartily agree!
No justice worth his or her salt should need a bunch of kids who have never (or barely) practiced law to draft opinions for him or her....
Justice Harry Blackmun’s papers show that, especially in his later years, clerks did most of the opinion writing and the justice often did little more than minor editing, as well as checking the accuracy of spelling and citations. Ginsburg, Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy reportedly have clerks write most or all of their first drafts—according to more or less detailed instructions—and often make few substantial changes. Some of O’Connor’s clerks have suggested that she rarely touched clerk drafts; others say she sometimes did substantial rewrites, depending on the opinion.
There’s no reason why seats on the highest court in the land, which will always offer their occupants great power and prestige, should also allow them to delegate the detailed writing to smart but unseasoned underlings. Any competent justice should be able to handle more than the current average of about nine majority opinions a year. And those who don’t want to work hard ought to resign in favor of people who do.
June 6, 2006
Stuart Taylor Jr. and Benjamin Wittes think the Supreme Court Justices have too much free time -- what's with O'Connor taking 28 junkets in '04 and publishing 3 books in 4 years? -- and it's making them arrogant. (Link for subscribers to The Atlantic... or use this link, which is good for 3 days.)