Marty’s post at SCOTUSblog reminds me that I forgot to post a review of the second of the new books on Supreme Court clerks: Todd C. Peppers, Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk. (For my take on the 1st book, Ward & Weiden’s Sorcerers’ Apprecentices, see here.) A few weeks have passed since I read Peppers’ book, but here are some recollections.
I enjoyed Peppers’ book, and found it a more insightful and interesting account than Ward & Weiden’s. Although the coverage of the two books is similar, Peppers properly sees the role of clerks and their experience as heavily contingent on the Justice who is in charge. To that end, much of Peppers’ book goes Justice-by-Justice through the different Justices’ approach to law clerk hiring and the role clerks served for those individual Justices. Some of the information is incomplete, as much of the information is based on interviews with former clerks, but I thought the Justice-by-Justice approached worked very well on the whole: The reader gets a much better feel for both common and uncommon practices, as well as the personalities of the individual Justices and the role of their clerks. (In keeping with this more human approach, Peppers includes a section containing photographs of law clerks and Justices, mostly taken during their clerkships.)
I also liked the beginning of Peppers’ book: He starts off with a history of the public controversy over the influence of Supreme Court clerks, which begins (ironically) with a 1957 U.S. News essay by then-recent clerk William H. Rehnquist. I thought this background was helpful, as brings the reader up to speed on the basic terms of the debate. It also pushes Peppers to do more than just rehash that debate, something that I thought Ward & Weiden were guilty of doing in the conclusion of their book.