Legal Rasputins? Law Clerk Influence on Voting at the U.S. Supreme Court

70 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016 Last revised: 18 Jul 2018

Adam Bonica

Stanford University

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Jacob Goldin

Stanford Law School

Kyle Rozema

University of Chicago - Law School

Maya Sen

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: June 14, 2018

Abstract

Supreme Court justices employ law clerks to help them perform their duties. We study whether these clerks influence how justices vote in the cases they hear. We exploit the timing of the clerkship hiring process to link variation in clerk ideology to variation in judicial voting. To measure clerk ideology, we match clerks to the universe of disclosed political donations. We find that clerks exert modest influence on judicial voting overall, but substantial influence in cases that are high-profile, legally significant, or close decisions. We interpret these results to suggest that clerk influence occurs through persuasion rather than delegation of decision-making authority.

Keywords: Judicial Behavior, Personnel Economics, Law Clerks

JEL Classification: M51

Suggested Citation

Bonica, Adam and Chilton, Adam S. and Goldin, Jacob and Rozema, Kyle and Sen, Maya, Legal Rasputins? Law Clerk Influence on Voting at the U.S. Supreme Court (June 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2815545 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2815545

Adam Bonica

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Adam S. Chilton (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.adamchilton.org

Jacob Goldin

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

Kyle Rozema

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.kylerozema.com

Maya Sen

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/msen

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