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Outsource the Supreme Court

Christopher Shea's essay in yesterday's Boston Globe, Supreme Downsizing, considers Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule's proposal for scaling back the Supreme Court. Vermeule's concern is not the number of justices but the scope of their responsibility. As Shea explains:

"Vermeule ... says this entire conception of the Supreme Court -- nine wise and isolated elders fighting over when and whether to overrule Congress -- is hopelessly flawed. It promises only perpetual rancor and inconsistency, he argues: the bane of good law. The court, he concludes, should stay out of controversial matters of politics and law almost entirely, deferring -- except in painfully obvious cases -- to the wisdom of elected representatives in Congress."

Extreme as his proposal sounds, Vermeule argues that liberals and conservatives alike would more readily accept it if only they calmly weighed the costs and benefits from their own political perspectives. This one-time law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia says his idea derives not from his former employer's originalism but from the belief that the Court is simply not set up to handle the immense task it has been handed.

I don't buy Vermeule's call for downsizing the high court, but it got me to thinking of an alternative idea that undoubtedly would help the Court handle its immense responsibilities -- outsource the Supreme Court. While cases could continue to be docketed and managed in Washington, D.C., the nitty-gritty work of the Court in reviewing and deciding cases could be doled out to offshore firms in India or elsewhere. No doubt, companies would quickly spring up with names such as or, and no doubt their law clerks would hail from some of the same prestigious schools as today's law clerks. But consider the advantages:

  • The work of the court could be done for pennies on the dollar.
  • The decision makers would be far removed from Washington politics.
  • Cases would be decided swiftly -- possibly, same day if need be.
  • Oral arguments could either be eliminated or conducted via WebEx.
  • Cameras would not only be permitted but broadcast via YouTube.
  • There would be no more jockeying for prestigious law clerk slots.
  • Firms would no longer have to dole out those obscene clerkship bonuses.

I can think of only two arguable downsides to this: that opinions may not always be consistent or written in language that is understandable, but of course, both of these problems already plague the Court. As for the sitting justices, they should, respectfully, be offered suitable positions with offshore firms, although likely at a drop in pay. Like Vermeule, I believe that if you calmly weigh the costs and benefits of this proposal, you will come to see its merits.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 8, 2007 at 04:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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