Supreme Court clerks are overwhelmingly white and male. Just like 20 years ago.

Nearly 20 years ago, USA TODAY reported on a first-ever study of the powerful young law clerks who are hired by the U.S. Supreme Court to help justices do their work — work that affects the lives of all Americans.The research showed that those prestigious one-year clerkships, a golden ticket to a top-tier legal career, were going overwhelmingly to white males. Fewer than 2% were African-Americans, 1% were Hispanic, and only a quarter were women.The stories, which occupied more space in USA TODAY than any other topic in a single day’s edition until then, caused a stir. Civil rights leaders protested and got arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court, and justices were routinely asked by members of Congress why they have not hired more minorities. More: Who are we as a country? Time to decide: Sally Yates More: Listen up Supreme Court: Warrantless smartphone tracking violates our rights I wrote those stories as USA TODAY’s Supreme Court correspondent, and thought I’d let readers know that I recently updated the research in a series of stories for TheNational Law Journal, where I currently cover the Supreme Court. You may be surprised to learn — I certainly was — that in the 20 years since those stories appeared, little progress has been made.We found that since 2005, 85% of all Supreme Court law clerks have been white. The percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics has increased at a glacial pace. Women comprise a third of the clerks instead of a fourth, even though more than half of law students now are female.And the lack of diversity runs across the spectrum of justices. Though half of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s clerks have been women, she has hired only one black law clerk since joining the court in 1993. Only 8% of Chief Justice Roberts’ clerks have been racial or ethnic minorities. Also note: Harvard and Yale law schools have increased their dominance, Continue Reading

Supreme Court blunders tarnish reputation

Americans count on the justices to be nearly infallible, but the Supreme Court this year has made two embarrassing stumbles by kicking the wrong lawyers out of the high court’s bar.In both cases, the court said, it was a matter of mistaken identity. A lawyer with virtually the same name had gotten into trouble, and the court took action — only they had the wrong guy.The bungles came to light when the court had to revoke its original order.Court-watchers said that kind of mistake is “exceedingly rare.” Indeed, a review by The Washington Times found past instances in 1988, 1991, 1995 and 1997. But it appears to have been decades since the last goof-up, so notching two in the same year was striking.In one instance the court in May announced it was suspending Christopher Patrick Sullivan from the bar, and demanded he “show cause” why he shouldn’t be disbarred altogether. Weeks later, the justices asked for a mulligan.“Due to mistaken identity, the order suspending Christopher Patrick Sullivan of Boston, Massachusetts from the practice of law in this Court, dated May 15, 2017, is vacated,” the court said.The person they thought they were punishing was Christopher Paul Sullivan, a New York lawyer convicted for a 2013 drunken-driving slaying of a 71-year-old woman.To make matters more embarrassing, the Mr. Sullivan they wrongly suspended was the president-elect of the Massachusetts Bar Association.Mr. Sullivan’s firm, Robins Kaplan LLP, contacted the Supreme Court clerk to tell them they had the wrong guy.“The Clerk’s Office was then able to confirm that the Christopher P. Sullivan who was disbarred in New York is a different person from the individual who was the subject of the show cause order, and that the Mr. Sullivan who was disbarred in New York is not a member of the Supreme Court Bar,” said Kathleen Arberg, a court spokesperson. “As a result, the Court issued the order today Continue Reading

Court clerk prevented public from accessing lawsuits, costing New York taxpayers $335G

New York taxpayers are on the hook for $335,000 due to a Manhattan Supreme Court clerk’s failure to make new lawsuits promptly available to the public. Late last month, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Edgardo Ramos approved the hefty attorney fees in a lawsuit brought by Courthouse News Service brought. The service had said County Clerk Milton Tingling’s policies prevented reporters — and the public — from accessing certain high-profile civil cases even though they were technically filed and covered by select media outlets. Some Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuits were being withheld for a day or more while Tingling’s employees finished clerical work. Tingling “has complied with the preliminary injunction by modifying the New York State Courts electronic filing system to permit the immediate public online viewing of case(s),” Ramos wrote in a five-page order regarding the fees. In December, Ramos ordered Tingling to make the suits promptly available, ruling Courthouse News Service had presented enough evidence to prevail in its case. Tingling, who previously served as a judge, is best known for his 2013 ruling killing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban. He was appointed to his current job as New York County clerk in January 2015. Tingling was sued in April 2016. He did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration declined to comment. Continue Reading

2 court clerks made litigants pay for access to free documents

Two Manhattan Supreme Court clerks face charges after making litigants pay for access to free documents, a court spokesman said Monday. Triston Baptiste, 34, and David Washington, 48, were arrested Thursday on official misconduct charges, said Lucian Chalfen of the Office of Court Administration. “They were basically charging litigants for certain paperwork, things that should have been free,” Chalfen said. The men worked in the records room in the basement of 60 Centre St., where staffers retrieve and maintain case files. Baptiste allegedly accepted payments totaling $1,180 on four occasions from undercover investigators beginning October 2016, according to a criminal complaint. Baptiste also faced a charge of petit larceny. Washington told a Law Department attorney that he would have to pay $820 for photocopies of a 3,200-page document, according to a complaint. Law Department staff are exempt from copying fees. Washington was also slapped with a charge of attempted petit larceny. A typical courtgoer must use a photocopier — that charges 25 cents per page — to copy public court documents. The Office of Court Administration was alerted to the alleged scam by a litigant, Chalfen said. The case was then referred to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. A call to Baptiste’s attorney was not returned. Washington’s lawyer declined to comment. With Victoria Bekiempis Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Legislative prayer gets Supreme Court review

The Supreme Court, which asks for God’s protection before every public session, will settle a dispute over prayer in the halls of government. The case being argued at the court Wednesday involves prayers said at the start of town council meetings in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb. It is the court’s first legislative prayer case since 1983, when the justices said that an opening prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment. But the federal appeals court in New York held that the town crossed a line and violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, and with the replacement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with Justice Samuel Alito in 2006, the court has been more open to religion in public life. The case may serve as a test of the ongoing viability of the decision in the 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers. But it also could have an even broader impact, giving conservative justices the opportunity to jettison legal rules that have tended to rein in religious expression in the public square. That is what some conservative Christian groups, Republican lawmakers and state officials are hoping for, and it’s what liberal interest groups fear. The issue extends well beyond prayer and could affect holiday displays, aid to religious schools, Ten Commandments markers and memorial crosses. The Supreme Court “has issued a series of narrowly divided and splintered decisions that have confused the lower courts, baffled the public and incentivized government officials to suppress legitimate religious expression in order to avoid the costs and hazards of litigation,” said 85 members of Congress, almost all Republicans, in a court filing. Among the examples of confusion cited are the court’s twin rulings on a single day in 2005 that upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the Continue Reading

From Bay Ridge to big screen: Court clerk & novelist’s movie ‘The Narrows’ to open at Pavilion

Tim McLoughlin uses bits and pieces of elevator chit-chat and hallway conversations he's picked up on the job in his successful crime fiction. Now the 50-year-old Brooklyn Supreme Court clerk, who grew up in Bay Ridge, has turned his childhood memories and stories into a film that opens across the country on Friday. "It's literally like an out-of-body experience, seeing these scenes that you thought of being acted out on the screen," said McLoughlin, who first told the film's coming-of-age tale in his novel, "Heart of the Old Country." "The Narrows" stars another Bay Ridge native, "Law & Order's" Vincent D'Onofrio - but the two hadn't met before filming began. "We were stomping around a few blocks from each other and never knew it," McLoughlin said. "The Narrows" is the story of Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers), a young man torn as he tries to leave the neighborhood behind for a career as a photographer in Manhattan. But Mike quickly learns how tough it is to cut ties, and gets sucked back to Brooklyn by his family, childhood friend Nicky Shades and his employer, a local mob boss named Tony. McLoughlin said the movie is a combination of his imagination and his experiences growing up. "People come up to me and say, 'I knew Nicky Shades,' and I just say, 'No you didn't - Nicky Shades is three guys I knew.' " Twenty years at the Brooklyn Supreme Court have left McLoughlin with a keen sense of drama - and a lot of good stories. "A snippet of conversation is priceless," he said. "A whole novel can come out of that. These snapshots can amuse you or break your heart." McLoughlin grew up on 69th St. and saw his first movie at the Pavilion theater in Windsor Terrace - the same theater where "The Narrows" begins its week-long theatrical run Friday. "Seeing this in the Pavilion will complete a circle in my life," said McLoughlin, who lives with his wife, Renette, in Brooklyn Heights. "This is serendipity from start to finish." After the screening, everyone involved will go out Continue Reading

Ted Cruz tells states to ignore Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage: ‘Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it’

Ted Cruz offered a straightforward check for what he believes is an overreaching Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. The Texas senator and Republican presidential contender, himself a former Supreme Court clerk, said that states not specifically named in the ruling can ignore it. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE." "Article III of the Constitution gives the court the authority to resolve cases and controversies. Those cases and controversies, when they're resolved, when you're facing a judicial order, the parties to that suit are bound it," Cruz told NPR's Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. "Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it." The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage by a 5-4 vote in a landmark decision Friday. Yet the case of Obergefell v. Hodges deals directly only with Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, which by Cruz's logic, are the only states which must comply. States, Cruz said, "cannot ignore a direct judicial order. The parties to a case cannot ignore a direct judicial order. But it does not mean that those who are not parties to case are bound by a judicial order. "And that's what Justice Scalia was saying in his dissent, which is that the court depends upon the remainder of government trusting that it is faithfully applying the law and—and these judges and justices are disregarding their oaths." Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent, blasting his fellow Justices for not allowing states to publically debate and decide the issue. Cruz, who served as then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist's clerk in 1996, also panned the decision. "It is not healthy for our democracy when judges on our Supreme Court are violating their judicial oath," Cruz said. "And in both the Obamacare decision and the marriage decision, the justices decided that they wanted to re-write federal law Continue Reading

A ‘MORE PERFECT’ UNION: Obama hails Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage across U.S.

Marriage is now legal in the U.S.A. for Adam and Steve — not just Adam and Eve. The Supreme Court declared Friday by a vote of 5 to 4 that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the country. President Obama joined in cheering the decision, calling it not just a victory for gays and lesbians, but for America. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE" “We’ve made our union a little more perfect,” Obama said in a Rose Garden address. The decision is a reminder that “change is possible, shifts in hearts and minds is possible,” he said. “This nation was founded on the principle that all people are created equal,” he said. “People should be treated equally no matter who they are or who they love.” Earlier, in a tweet, Obama called the decision “a big step in our march for equality.” And in a surreal but still celebratory TV moment, Obama called to congratulate lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell while he was in the midst of a CNN interview. “Your leadership on the this issue changed the country,” Obama said. On the steps of the nation’s highest court, jubilant gay couples embraced and cheered and broke into a stirring rendition of the national anthem. “Love has won!” they chanted. Outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, the cradle of the gay rights movement, Shellie Cross and her wife Colleen McCollum embraced. “I never thought this day would come,” said Cross, 43. “My wife and I wanted to be here this morning as it was announced and we took a selfie the second the Supreme Court released their decision.” Texans Justin Kettler and Tom Loecker said they’re heading home to Dallas to get hitched. “We wanted to wait to get married until it was nationally recognized,” said Kettler, 37. “Now it Continue Reading

Ex-Bronx court clerk who stole $80K must repay money or go to prison: judge

A former Bronx courthouse clerk who pocketed more than $80,000 in under-reported cash transactions for passport applications and business certificates will dodge prison if he repays the loot, a judge ruled Thursday. Christopher Goodly, 30, was indicted last year for stealing up to $1,000 at a time between 2012 and 2013 as a finance clerk in Bronx Civil Court. He confessed to the crime at Bronx Supreme Court — a mere block from the Grand Concourse courthouse where he used to work. Goodly was fired in 2013 after an audit found that he had issued far more documents than he had reported, said a source. The plea to second-degree grand larceny requires Goodly to pay back over $86,000 in restitution and fees over five years, or face up to three years in prison. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Louisiana, Texas governors vow to fight Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage while others pledge to comply

The Supreme Court’s ruling Friday set a precedent that 13 states are now required to recognize gay marriages and issue licenses to same-couples that wish to wed. Some governors in those Midwest and Southern states are mixed on how to go forward with the historic ruling. Some, like Governors Bobby Jindal and Greg Abbott, have promised to fight that ruling citing religious freedom and state rights that they believe should supersede a Supreme Court ruling. EDITORIAL: THE RIGHT RULING AT THE RIGHT TIME Jindal's administration is holding tight to Louisiana's ban. It could be nearly a month before gay couples can obtain a marriage license as the Attorney General’s Office asks clerks to not follow the Supreme Court’s ruling, local reports said. The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association also informed clerks to not issue licenses until a 25-day rehearing period ends for the Supreme Court, in case a challenged is filed, according to the New Orleans Advocate. "Current state law is still in effect until the courts order us otherwise," Mike Reed, Jindal's spokesman, told the Times-Picayune. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE." In Texas, the Harris County Clerk’s Office briefly rejected a handful of couples trying to obtain a marriage license on orders of Clerk Stan Stanart. Other Texan counties such as Dallas and Bexar began issuing licenses without a hitch. After threats of legal repercussions, Stanart upended the order and made it possible for gay couples to obtain a license by Friday afternoon. The paperwork still described marriage parties as a man and a woman pending new documents from a state agency. Few hiccups were reported in states such as Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal promised to make good on the Supreme Court's ruling and would begin issuing marriage licenses immediately. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, whose state was plagued by racial tension in Continue Reading