1% of Lawyers Filing Appeals to Supreme Court Account for 43% of Accepted Cases; Most Represent Corporations

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Attorney Paul Clement arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court (graphic: Carolyn Kaster, AP)

Corporate America has learned that success in getting a case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court requires a particular lawyer belonging to an elite, though unofficial club.


Reuters found after reviewing nine years of high court cases that a very small group of attorneys has been representing a significant percentage of the legal battles heard by justices.


How small? Try 1%.


Only 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard 43% of the time, Reuters’ Joan Biskupic, Janet Roberts and John Shiffman reported.


“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 [2004-2012],” they wrote.


Most of the time these attorneys represent corporations seeking a victory before the Supreme Court. In fact, 51 of the 66 lawyers worked for law firms that primarily handle corporate clients.


“The results: a decided advantage for corporate America, and a growing insularity at the court,” according to the Reuters investigation. “Some legal experts contend that the 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.”


The investigation also revealed that about half of the 66 lawyers clerked or worked for current or previous justices, “and some socialize with them.” In terms of diversity, there is little: Only eight of the 66 lawyers are women, and 66 of them are white.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Echo Chamber (by Joan Biskupic, Janet Roberts and John Shiffman, Reuters)

Elite Law Firms Spin Gold From A Rarefied Niche: Getting Cases Before The Supreme Court (by John Shiffman, Janet Roberts and Joan Biskupic, Reuters)

In An Ever-Clubbier Specialty Bar, 8 Men Have Become Supreme Court Confidants (by Janet Roberts, Joan Biskupic and John Shiffman, Reuters)


Mark Marvin 9 years ago
I have been denied two of my pro se cases in the USSC and in one case the DA was fired 12 years later, and the parole and senior parole offiers were fired almost immediately. The USSC works behind the scene.
JayC 9 years ago
I think it's called the Country Club set.

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