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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76852 Find in a Library
Title: Law Clerks and the Judicial Process - Perceptions of the Qualities and Functions of Law Clerks in American Courts
Author(s): J B Oakley; R S Thompson
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 192
Sponsoring Agency: University of California at Davis
Davis, CA 95616
University of California Press
Berkeley, CA 94720
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616
Sale Source: University of California Press
2120 Berkely Way
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This indepth empirical and historical study examines the use of law clerks by American judges sitting on four different types of courts: the Supreme Court of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the four U.S. district courts in California, and the five courts of appeal in the California State court system.
Abstract: Although having a 100-year heritage, the institution of the law clerk has been ignored as an important component of the process of judicial decisionmaking. According to this book, law clerks are subordinate, anonymous, but often powerful lawyers who function as the noncommissioned officers in the army of the judiciary. American courts are currently altering the traditional use of law clerks through the introduction of important innovations that enhance the ability of judges to dispose of cases rapidly but detract from personal judicial control over individual decisions. The clash of tradition and innovation is investigated through interviews with 63 judges of Federal courts and appellate courts in California. Distinctly different models of law clerk usage were found in the State and Federal systems, which are analyzed on the basis of the judges' own perceptions of the qualitative and quantitative impact on their decisions of variations in the character, tenure, and duties of staff assistants. Suggestions are offered on how modern courts can cope with the 'crisis of volume' without unduly sacrificing traditional standards of judicial autonomy. The study presents important new information on the internal operating procedures of the courts studied, collating interview data with facts abstracted from preexisting but often obscure sources, and providing a particularly close look at the inner workings of the Supreme Court of California and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Revealing the significance of public funding of judicial staff in determining patterns of law clerk usage, this study should romote further investigation and debate about the proper structure and role of staff assistance in the judicial process. Tabular data are appended; a table of cases and statutes, footnotes, a bibliography of approximately 210 references, and an index are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): California; Court personnel; Decisionmaking; Job analysis; Judges; Surveys
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