Care-free Court ?

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Democracy's Constitution / Repairing the System


Here is a story from  SCOTUS about a Reuters study that came up with some very intriguing facts about how the Supreme Court chooses the cases it hears.

63 lawyers, less than 1% of the lawyers filing petitions, were the lawyers in 43% of the cases accepted by the Court.  Not only that, these disproportionately successful few tended to represent corporate interests.  And half of them had also served as law clerks at the Court earlier in their careers.

Something seems a little fishy here, although it is not clear exactly what this something is.   Maybe it’s the fear that high-priced insiders have special access to the Court to the disadvantage of other litigants not able to afford their fees.  After all, you can’t win in the Supreme Court if they don’t choose to hear your case.

To me the most interesting part of the story is the reactions of  the justices when they were asked if the statistics were  cause for alarm.   None of the eight justices questioned  expressed  concern or saw any reason for further investigation.  At this point the image of Alfred E Neuman pops into my head.  You will remember  Neuman as the  mascot of MAD magazine whose motto was “What, Me Worry?”

If the Supreme Court is not worried about this odd situation, maybe we should be.   What do you think?  Is there a plausible innocent explanation for these surprising statistics?   Or are the  members of the Court like many insiders  blind to problems in their own institution?

Upon reflection, there is a third possibility.   Maybe the  justices are very  much aware of the explosive potential of these statistics.  They are savvy enough to see that at a minimum the stats present a serious perception problem– a court that seems to have a lot in common with a college fraternity.   But perhaps they would prefer to deal with this “internal” problem without the glare of publicity. Hence a blithe dismissal of the report’s importance might be deemed  the smart reaction.    But, as I have said in a different context,   (  ) playing loose with the truth is risky business for judges.  It makes it hard for us to know when we should believe them.


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