Justices Thomas and Breyer testify in front of Congress on Diversity in Clerk Hiring

April 15th, 2010

Today Justices Thomas and Breyer testified in front of the  House Appropriations Subcommittee. The video is available here.

Around 54:00, Representative Lee grilled Justice Thomas about the lack of diversity among Supreme Court law clerks, and asked whether the Court has a concerted effort to identify law clerks of color, including law clerks from Howard or Texas Southern.

Thomas answered the question by noting that the hiring pool for SCOTUS clerks begins with Courts of Appeals clerks. Lee asked what efforts the Court was taking to increase this pool. Lee further remarked that some of the Court’s decisions (likely referring to the Michigan affirmative action cases) have shut out people of color from some institutions.

Lee asked if the Court could issue an “edict” telling Circuit judges whom to hire. Thomas replied that the Court did not have the capacity to change the hiring practices of other Judges.

Around 1:00:00Justice Breyer jumped in, and noted that when he joined the Court 15 years ago, he was surprised at the low number of minority clerks. But he noted a “sea change” over the past 15 years.

Justice Thomas did mention George Mason as a great, non-Ivy League law school,  during his testimony around 1:20:20. Win!

Lee requested a report of ethnic, gender, and regional diversity for law clerks. Rep. Seranno noted that the Committee will apply pressure where pressure needs to be applied in order to see some results on this issue.