Saturday, September 02, 2006

on the absence of female supreme court clerks

Something of a hubbub was created by a recent NY Times article lamenting the decline in female Supreme Court clerks during the current year (I think it was 7 out of 37, something like that). Since the closest I ever got to the Supreme Court was the public tour, I'm not sure that I'm much of an expert, but here are a few thoughts:

1. I doubt that it's just a statistical oddity. You can flip a coin and get 30 out of 37 heads, but you usually don't. Does anyone really think it equally likely that there would be only 7 males?

2. Nor do I think it is "sexism" on the part of the judges. For one thing, they wouldn't have been less sexist in previous years. Also, most sexists are quite comfortable hiring younger women in dependent positions (like law clerks); it's when they ask for the senior positions that the trouble starts.

3. I think that the issue of female professors as role models deserves a closer look. There are a variety of women law professors teaching a wide range of subjects at prestigious law schools. But relatively few are conservatives, and in many places they remain concentrated in feminist and other "critical" fields. This makes it less likely that their students will clerk for (say) Scalia, Roberts, or other more conservative judges. The same is probably true for becoming partners at major law firms or equivalent positions.

I was interested, by the way, to see that Justice Thomas was actually one of the more likely to hire female law clerks, at least among conservative judges. I doubt he'll get much credit for it.


Post a Comment

<< Home