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HKS Authors

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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.

Citation

Bonica, Adam, Adam Chilton, Jacob Goldin, Kyle Rozema, and Maya Sen. "Legal Rasputins? Law Clerk Influence on Voting at the US Supreme Court." The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization 35.1 (March 2019): 1-36.