Supreme Court Now a Total Boys Club

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


A few days ago, a lawyer friend sent me a daily law journal article about the paucity of female Supreme Court clerks this year– 19% of the 2006 clerks are women, down from 37-41% over the five previous terms. Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Souter hired only male clerks this term.

Somebody must have sent Linda Greenhouse the same article, because she’s all over it today. (Legal Times covered this back in May, when the clerkships were announced.)

It’s truly unfortunate that not only are there almost no women on the actual court, but the clerks (the people who actually write opinions and screen new cases) are also mostly male.

In a brief telephone interview, Justice O’Connor said she was “surprised” by the development, but declined to speculate on the cause. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed no such surprise. In a conversation the other day, she knew the numbers off the top of her head, and […] she also observed with obvious regret that “I have been all alone in my corner on the bench” since Justice O’Connor’s retirement in January.

Justice Ginsburg, who will have two women among her four clerks, declined during the conversation to comment further on the clerkship numbers. Why not ask a justice who has not hired any women for the coming term, she suggested.

Souter explains that this is “no more than a random variation,” which is a really annoying excuse for his lack of female hires. I suppose the fact that there’s only one female justice on the bench is also just a “random variation”?

The dearth of female clerks is certainly not for lack of women at prestigious law schools– in fact, schools are where women in law have made the most progress. American Bar Association data shows about half of recent law grads were female, and the percentage of women in tenured positions at law schools increased from 5.9%5 to 25.1% between 1994 and 2002. Women are making professional progress, too, but the numbers aren’t as dramatic when you start talking about positions of power after graduation.

It’s also worth noting, as the Legal Times article did, that there are very few minority clerks, too:

Eight years after attention was first called to the dearth of minorities among high court clerks, it appears that only three of the 37 clerks serving at the Court this term are nonwhite. […] It appears that the current number of minorities is substantially lower than in recent years. The three minorities this term compare with five last term, eight the previous term and a record nine in 2002. …if the proof is in the pudding, the pudding, this term at least, is vanilla.

Male vanilla.

See the Volokh Conspiracy for more.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate