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Paper – Do Law Clerks Influence Voting on the Supreme Court?

Bonica, Adam and Chilton, Adam S. and Goldin, Jacob and Rozema, Kyle and Sen, Maya, Do Law Clerks Influence Voting on the Supreme Court? (December 16, 2016). Available for download at SSRN:

“We study the influence of law clerk ideology on Supreme Court voting. To do so, we exploit the timing of hiring to link variation in clerk ideology to variation in voting, and we measure ideology by matching clerks to their political donations. We document a positive and statistically significant effect of clerk ideology on judicial voting. Our results suggest that a justice would cast approximately 4% more conservative votes in a term when employing his or her most conservative clerks, as compared to a term in which the justice employs his or her most liberal clerks. We find larger effects in cases that are higher profile, cases that are legally significant, and cases in which the justices are more evenly divided. We interpret our results as providing suggestive evidence that clerk influence operates through persuasion rather than delegation of decision-making responsibility.”

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