Legal Rasputins? Law Clerk Influence on Voting at the U.S. Supreme Court
70 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016 Last revised: 18 Jul 2018
Date Written: June 14, 2018
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: Suggested Citation