A new study on SSRN examines whether law clerks exert any influence on voting by Supreme Court justices. According to authors Adam Bonica, Adam Chilton, Jacob Goldin, Kyle Rozema, & Maya Sen, there is indeed “strong evidence that clerk ideology does affect judicial voting behavior.”
The authors examined political donations made by Supreme Court clerks and found that:
on average, a justice would cast approximately 4% more conservative votes in a term when employing his or her most conservative clerks, as compared to a term in which the justice employs his or her most liberal clerks.
We find larger effects in cases that are higher profile (17%), cases that are legally significant (22%), and cases in which the justices are more evenly divided (12%). We interpret these findings to provide suggestive evidence that clerk influence operates through clerks persuading their justice to follow the clerk’s preferred outcome, rather than through justices delegating decision-making to clerks.