Courting Controversy

A new book by an insider claims law clerks have inordinate influence over the Supreme Court

When Missouri put George ("Tiny") Mercer to death in January 1989, a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist told his Supreme Court colleagues it was time to allow more executions. "In case anyone hadn't noticed, we had a successful execution last night," Robert Giuffra exhorted. "We need to get our numbers up after only 11 in 1988 and five since July." Giuffra was one of an influential "cabal" of conservative law clerks who used their proximity to the Justices to work against abortion rights and affirmative action and to try to cut back on the court's review of death-row appeals.

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