Cover image for The Supreme Court bar : legal elites in the Washington community
The Supreme Court bar : legal elites in the Washington community
McGuire, Kevin T.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, [1993]

Physical Description:
xii, 254 pages ; 24 cm.
Corporate Subject:
Format :


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KF8742 .M34 1993 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Who represents litigants in the Supreme Court of the United States? Kevin T. McGuire shows that the most sophisticated of them have the advantage of representation by an elite counsel made up of former clerks to the justices, alumni of the Office of the Solicitor General, partners in powerful Washington law firms, and public interest lawyers, all of whom serve as gatekeepers to the Court.

In this study, the first to characterize the bar of the Supreme Court as a whole, McGuire uses survey, archival, and interview data to explore the history and social structure of the community of Supreme Court specialists. In so doing, he assesses the strategic politics of Supreme Court practice, the ways in which dominant litigators can shape the Court's decisions, and what the existence of such an elite implies for judicial fairness.

Author Notes

Kevin T. McGuire is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

McGuire has produced a landmark work on the elite corps of lawyers practicing before the US Supreme Court, an inner circle of lawyers "who serve as gatekeepers to the Court [and who] have become influential actors in the politics of the high court." Beginning with an examination of the 17th-century version of the Supreme Court bar, McGuire surveys the reasons for its demise and the modern variables creating a new, but quite different, Court elite. In analyzing the shared characteristics of this group, McGuire finds that they constitute a demographic elite even among the legal community: white, male, liberal, Protestant, urban, and appellate litigation oriented. Because of this group's access to and legitimacy from the justices of the Court, they are in demand by those wealthy and influential enough to afford them. The author shows that, all other things being equal, the Court is likely to give greater weight to the petitions for review and legal arguments made by this elite cadre. Most significantly, the ability of these high-priced lawyers "to gain access to the Court over and above a host of competing interests" suggests that, as with the other branches of government, access to and success in the Supreme Court may be available only to the few who have the resources. Excellent appendixes and index add to this work to make it a must for all students and scholars of public law and American politics and all academic libraries. M. W. Bowers; University of Nevada, Las Vegas