A new study has found that former clerks have started to take jobs that reflect the ideologies of the justices for whom they worked.
“It’s cause for concern mainly because it’s a further piece of evidence of the polarization of the court,” said William E. Nelson, a law professor at New York University and one of the authors of the study.
Now, anyone who follows SCOTUS clerk hiring today might yawn at this. Is it really surprising that, as reported in the study, the Bush Administration hired more clerks from the conservative justices, the Clinton Administration hired more clerks from the liberal justices, and certain firms skew conservative (Kirkland & Ellis) or liberal (WilmerHale) in their hiring of former Supreme Court clerks?
But here’s the interesting part:
Until about 1990, the study shows, there was no particular correlation between a justice’s ideological leanings and what his or her clerks did with their lives…. Before the 1990s, the study found, all sorts of former clerks served in the government under all sorts of administrations….
In addition, there have been changes with respect to clerks entering academia:
From about 1940 to 1990, the study found, about a third of all clerks became law professors. There was variation among the chambers, but it was not correlated to the justices’ ideological leanings…. [But now] clerks from conservative chambers are less likely to teach. If they do, they are more likely to join the faculties of conservative and religious law schools.
We’ve heard anecdotally about anti-conservative bias in law faculty hiring (similar to what you sometimes see in law firm hiring). Does this study support the sense of some conservatives that the legal academy is hostile to their ideas?
More discussion of the article, plus the latest in Supreme Court clerk hiring news, after the jump.