The ultraconservative Center for Judicial Studies in Cumberland, Va., thinks it has found a way to infiltrate the federal judiciary it so often rails against. The center has been sending thousands of letters to judges across the country offering to supply them with law clerks who are sympathetic to right-wing causes.

"I can say that in one or two cases we have been instrumental in placing people," said James E. Hinish Jr., vice president of the center. "I think if you find a very good judge, he doesn't particularly care whether his clerk is a liberal or conservative, but whether he does good work or not."

So far, Hinish said, the center has mailed out about 8,000 letters to federal and local judges around the country, as well as to state attorneys general, advertising the placement service. About 200 potential bosses have replied, he said.

"All but about six have been very positive," he said. "We're very pleased with that response."

Potential clerks must pass an ideological purity test of sorts when Hinish interviews them.

"I can find out what their views are," Hinish said. "They're almost all related to the law, covering capital punishment, whether the federal judiciary is too liberal or too activist, whether they're strict constructionists, and what proposed constitutional amendments they favor."

Applicants score high points if they name William H. Rehnquist as their favorite Supreme Court justice.

And what of the nation's highest court?

"We haven't sent any letters to the justices," Hinish said. "I don't think they will need our service. We will try to influence the Supreme Court in other ways."