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The Supreme Quiz

Test Your Knowledge of the Court

By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 4, 2004; Page A21

Just in time for the new term of the Supreme Court, which begins today, this year's annual "First Monday in October" quiz focuses not on the justices but on their behind-the-scenes helpers -- the Supreme Court law clerks. Young, smart, industrious and (almost always) discreet, clerks put in long hours wading through eye-glazing paperwork for their bosses. What they get in return is a modest salary, the thrill of helping the high court through one year of historic decision making -- and a ticket to a future career in the upper echelons of American law, business or government. You'll be graded on your knowledge of clerk trivia; answers follow at the end. -- Charles Lane

1. Each of the following Supreme Court justices except one is a former Supreme Court law clerk. Who is the exception? (two points)

a. William H. Rehnquist
b. Antonin Scalia
c. Stephen G. Breyer
d. John Paul Stevens

2. Name the justices that each of the three former clerks in Question 1 served. (one point for each correct answer)

3. In what year did Congress first authorize funds for the hiring of law clerks by justices of the Supreme Court? (two points)

4. All current members of the court employ a staff of four law clerks, except one, who employs only three. Name the justice. (one point)

5. Eight of the nine members of the court participate in a "cert pool," a system designed to streamline the task of reading through the thousands of appeal petitions that come to the court each term. The pool clerks divide up the stacks of petitions each week, producing a single memo on each case to help the justices decide whether to hear the case. Who is the oly justice who has his own law clerks read and summarize all the cases separately for him? (two points)

6. True or false? According to Legal Times, former Supreme Court law clerks are so highly prized by law firms that some can expect to receive compensation totaling more than $300,000 for their first year's work after leaving the court. (two points)

7. True or false? Supreme Court clerks are prohibited from representing clients before the court until at least two years after their clerkships end. (one point)

8. Which of the following people was not a Supreme Court law clerk: (two points)

a. Warren Christopher, former secretary of state
b. Laura Ingraham, conservative TV pundit
c. Alan Dershowitz, defense lawyer
d. Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel

9. Who was the first African American to be a Supreme Court law clerk, and which justice did he serve? (three points)

10. Who was the first woman to be a Supreme Court law clerk, and which justice did she serve? (three points)

11. True or false? One of the most important functions of a law clerk is to accompany his or her justice as a note taker during the conferences at which justices discuss and vote on cases. (two points)

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