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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Un-Leaky Supreme Court

Despite the prevalance of leaks in Washington, the Supreme Court is famous for maintaining a lid on information. Each of the justices has four clerks, who all know the content of decisions in advance because they do the research and much of the drafting. But they do not talk out of turn. Associated Press reports:
Those 36 clerks, who have inside knowledge of the court's deliberations, are just as mum as their bosses despite growing up in the Internet age of bloggers, camera-phones, social media and instantly free-flowing information. Clerks are warned from day one not to reveal anything about their work, said lawyer Stephen Miller, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. Miller remembered Chief Justice William Rehnquist warning all of the clerks in his year of the perils of leaking information from the court. "Leaks were unacceptable," Miller remembers the chief justice sternly telling all of them. In addition to losing their job, one of the most highly sought positions for up-and-coming lawyers in the nation because it usually leads to a six-figure salary upon completion, any clerk caught revealing information would immediately be ostracized in the legal profession, Miller said. No law firm would be willing to take a chance on a lawyer who talks or leaks information to outsiders without permission. If the leaking clerk isn't caught, the entire class would have that stigma, leading to strong peer pressure to stay silent, he said. "So what's in it for a clerk to leak?" Miller said.

Miller noted that all the lampposts at the entrances and exits of the Supreme Court building are supported by turtle sculptures, which can also be found elsewhere in the building. It's an apt symbol for the court. "They like information to move slowly and deliberately," Miller said.