Ann at feministing.com has a post on the scarcity of women among the Supreme Court clerks, a position which is an important stepping stone in a legal career:
A few days ago, a lawyer friend sent me a daily law journal article about the paucity of female Supreme Court clerks this year-- 19% of the 2006 clerks are women, down from 37-41% over the five previous terms. Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Souter hired only male clerks this term.
In a brief telephone interview, Justice O'Connor said she was "surprised" by the development, but declined to speculate on the cause. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed no such surprise. In a conversation the other day, she knew the numbers off the top of her head, and in fact had noted them in a speech this month in Montreal to the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, during which she also observed with obvious regret that "I have been all alone in my corner on the bench" since Justice O'Connor's retirement in January.
Justice Ginsburg, who will have two women among her four clerks, declined during the conversation to comment further on the clerkship numbers. Why not ask a justice who has not hired any women for the coming term, she suggested.
Souter explains that this is "no more than a random variation," which is a really annoying excuse for his lack of female hires. I suppose the fact that there's only one female justice on the bench is also just a "random variation"?
It's very unlikely to be random variation. The proof is in this quote:
On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court ended its 2005-2006 term. The Justices employed 37 law clerks this past term, 13 of whom were women. During the 2004-05 term, 15 of 35 law clerks were women. Initial reports for the upcoming 2006-2007 term appear to indicate that the number of women will again drop. A recent article by Tony Mauro entitled "High Court Clerks: Still White, Still Male" is available here.
Let's see how the run looks: From fifteen to thirteen to seven women in three years. Why is the "random variation" only going downwards? Now, it's not impossible for that to be the case, but I'd argue that the evidence supports a very different interpretation of the numbers. You make your own guess what that interpretation might be.
Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times offers more interesting and unwholesome evidence about some of the Justices:
Just under 50 percent of new law school graduates in 2005 were women. Yet women account for only 7 of the 37 law clerkships for the new term, the first time the number has been in the single digits since 1994, when there were 4,000 fewer women among the country's new law school graduates than there are today.
A post on one popular legal Web site, the Volokh Conspiracy, asked, "Why so few women Supreme Court clerks?" and drew 135 comments during a single week in July. The answers included the relative scarcity of female students among the top editors of the leading law schools' law reviews — an important preclerkship credential — and the absence of women among the "feeder judges," the dozen or so federal appeals court judges who, year in and year out, offer a reliable pipeline to the Supreme Court for their own favored law clerks.
Some speculated that Justice Antonin Scalia, who hired only two women among 28 law clerks during the last seven years and who will have none this year, could not find enough conservative women to meet his test of ideological purity. (Justice Clarence Thomas will also have no female clerks this year, but over the preceding six years hired 11.)
In a brief telephone interview, Justice O'Connor said she was "surprised" by the development, but declined to speculate on the cause.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed no such surprise. In a conversation the other day, she knew the numbers off the top of her head, and in fact had noted them in a speech this month in Montreal to the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, during which she also observed with obvious regret that "I have been all alone in my corner on the bench" since Justice O'Connor's retirement in January.
Justice William O. Douglas hired the first female clerk, Lucille Lomen, in 1944, and it was 22 years before Justice Hugo L. Black hired the second, Margaret Corcoran. The first black clerk, William T. Coleman Jr., who is still practicing law here, was hired by Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1948.
Justice Frankfurter was not, however, ready to hire a woman when the dean of Harvard Law School strongly recommended a former star student in 1960. He turned down Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Note that the number of women on the bench declined by fifty percent when Justice O'Connor retired, and the reaction to that was very muted. My own theory is that the more muted our reactions are the more likely the "No Girls Allowed" sign will be on the doors of the Supreme Court, because change is always cumbersome and it's much easier to pick clones of your own lovely self as your assistants. And because the anti-feminists figure out that they can satisfy their desires for an all-male environment without paying a price for it.
But the Supreme Court of the United States should not be a place where sex or race discrimination is practised.