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Bar's 'Inner Circle' Sways Supreme Court

The emergence in recent years of a Supreme Court bar -- an elite circle of veteran lawyers who focus on Supreme Court advocacy -- is no secret. But a new study says this bar is not only reshaping Supreme Court practice but also influencing Supreme Court jurisprudence. The study by Richard Lazarus, director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Georgetown University Law Journal, is reported by Tony Mauro in today's Legal Times. It portrays a Supreme Court bar of elite attorneys that "is quietly transforming the court and the nation's laws," Lazarus tells Mauro, to the benefit of "monied interests more able to pay for such expertise."

As evidence of this, Lazarus points to numbers showing that 44 percent of the nongovernmental petitions granted review last term were filed by these veteran advocates, as opposed to six percent in 1980. And a 2004 survey found that 88 percent of law clerks acknowledged giving extra consideration to briefs filed by this "inner circle" of lawyers. The influence of these lawyers, Lazarus believes, has helped tilt the court's doctrine towards big business.

But some of the members of this inner circle dispute Lazarus's thesis, Mauro reports. Greater success in the court for big business is due to the court's composition more than to lawyering, they say. Akin Gump's Thomas C. Goldstein, founder of SCOTUSblog, tells Mauro: "We advocates tend to think it's all about the lawyering. But the most important trend by far is the increasing conservatism and pro-business orientation of the justices themselves."

Lazarus, meanwhile, is calling on the Supreme Court bar and on the Court to take steps to reduce the imbalance in advocacy between the well-paid pro-business veterans and those representing other parties, such as criminal defendants and employment discrimination, tort and environmental plaintiffs, Mauro writes. "The advocacy gap in the court between those who can pay and those who cannot," Lazarus says, is "bad for the legal profession, the court, and its rulings."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 22, 2007 at 06:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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