William Blake, a new assistant professor in the political science department, was quoted in a recent New York Times article about a study he conducted with two colleagues that investigated why the Supreme Court grants a smaller percentage of cases during the first conference of its term compared to others throughout the year. The research points to new law clerks as the reason because they receive limited training and are reluctant to provide recommendations due to reputation concerns.
For the study, Blake and his colleagues analyzed clerks’ pool memos from 1987 to 1994 that were released as part of Justice Harry A. Blackmun’s papers. “The bottom line, the study said, is that ‘litigants face an arbitrary and legally irrelevant disadvantage that is empirically attributable to the clerks’ initial hesitation to recommend grants,’” stated the New York Times article.
The study suggested additional training for law clerks to recommend granting more cases from the start. Blake said it wouldn’t be feasible to add more conferences during the summer for justices to consider cases.
“I don’t think we’re going to tell the justices to cut their vacations short,” he said.
Professor Blake’s research interests are in public law and the U.S. Supreme Court and state supreme courts.