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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Law clerks are central to the judicial process. Yet questions persist about whether they exercise undue influence. Clerkships are prestigious and clerk selection is driven by increasing competition. Hired for a single year, clerks take on considerable responsibility. At the agenda-setting stage, clerks screen incoming cases to help judges determine those that are worthy of review. Law clerks do research, prepare their judges for oral argument, and suggest how cases ought to be decided. Clerks take part in opinion writing by drafting the initial opinions that explain their judges’ positions. Clerks assist judges in the coalition formation process by discussing the cases and negotiating with other clerks. Post-clerkship career paths can not only be lucrative but also provide opportunities for former clerks to continue to influence their former bosses. Ultimately, research shows that while clerks necessarily influence the judicial decision-making process, they have not usurped judicial authority.

Keywords: law clerk, Supreme Court, agenda-setting, opinion writing, coalition formation, judicial decision-making

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