By Elaine Magliaro
This morning, Reuters published the first part of a three-part investigative series, Part 1: A cadre of well-connected attorneys has honed the art of getting the Supreme Court to take up cases – and business is capitalizing on their expertise. Written by Joan Biskupic, Janet Roberts, and John Shiffman, the series tells how “a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket” at “America’s court of last resort.”
In the first paragraph of the initial report in the series, the authors note that the marble façade of the Supreme Court building proclaims a high ideal: “Equal Justice Under Law.”
The authors report, however, that there is an elite cadre of lawyers who have emerged “as first among equals, giving their clients a disproportionate chance to influence the law of the land.”
Biskupic, Roberts, and Shiffman:
A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period.
The lawyers are the most influential members of one of the most powerful specialties in America: the business of practicing before the Supreme Court. None of these lawyers is a household name. But many are familiar to the nine justices. That’s because about half worked for justices past or present, and some socialize with them.
They are the elite of the elite: Although they account for far less than 1 percent of lawyers who filed appeals to the Supreme Court, these attorneys were involved in 43 percent of the cases the high court chose to decide from 2004 through 2012.
The authors of the report said that Reuters comprehensive investigation of the Supreme Court’s docket “suggests that the justices essentially have added a new criterion to whether the court takes an appeal – one that goes beyond the merits of a case and extends to the merits of the lawyer who is bringing it.” They added that the examination of the docket showed “a decided advantage for corporate America, and a growing insularity at the court.” They noted that there are some legal experts who contend that the court’s “reliance on a small cluster of specialists, most working on behalf of businesses, has turned the Supreme Court into an echo chamber – a place where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed.”
Click here to read The Echo Chamber: At America’s court of last resort, a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket (Reuters)