Lawyers Who Argue in front of the Supreme Court

On Christmas, the New York Times published an editorial about the select group of lawyers who practice and argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Here is an excerpt of the article:

“Those are the central findings of The Echo Chamber, a comprehensive analysis of about 10,300 petitions [of cases to be heard in front of the Supreme Court] filed by private attorneys between 2004 and 2012. Reuters found that the lawyer’s name on the brief was among the strongest predictors of whether the justices would take a case.

While the 66 lawyers Reuters identified represented less than one half of 1 percent of all lawyers who petitioned the court during that period, they were involved in 43 percent of the cases the justices heard.

That elite cohort is as homogeneous as it is powerful: 63 of the 66 lawyers were white, 58 were men, and 51 worked for firms with primarily corporate clients.

An even more elite group — eight lawyers — made almost one of every five arguments the court heard from private attorneys during those years. “

It was something I never considered, until now, about the practice.  The full New York Times article, titled “The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy” by The Editorial Board, is available here.

The original Echo Chamber article, titled “At America’s court of last resort, a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket” by Joan Biskupic, Janet Roberts, and John Shiffman, is available here.  The original article, published in earlier December 2014, shares some shocking figures:

“Typically, the Supreme Court agrees to hear just 5 percent of the petitions filed by private attorneys. It accepts 21 percent of the cases bearing the name of a leading advocate.

“They basically are just a step ahead of us in identifying the cases that we’ll take a look at,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. “They are on the front lines and they apply the same standards” as the justices do.

Some scholars say reliance on the expert bar has made for a far more insular court. “We don’t want the justices to filter cases through advocates,” said Jenny Roberts, associate dean at American University’s law school. “If this is happening, delegating the discretion of cases to a sort of sub-Supreme Court when so much is at stake is troublesome. It’s fine if you trust and agree with those in control, but what happens when you don’t?””

Some Supreme Court food for thought.

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