THE NUMBERS ARE so bad that if it were a corporation, the government would have had it in court yesterday on charges of discrimination. But it isn't a corporation. It's the court itself. And the numbers are enough to make you wonder if anyone up there really understands phrases like employment discrimination and equal opportunity.
What we are talking about are the law clerks to Supreme Court justices. Since the Brown v. Board of Eudcation desegregation decision 25 years ago - to take a handy date - there have been approximately 500 of these clerks chosen. Of which only one has been a black. In fact, only two blacks have been chosen since the first clerk was hired in 1882. The justices do seem to have stopped discriminating against women - something they clearly did up until the last decade or so.
Here are the most commonly offered explanations of this situation. Each justice picks his own clerks or has someone pick them for him; there is no centralized hiring so no one looks at the whole picture. The pool from which the clerks are selected is made up of those who finished at the very top of their class in the very best law schools. And there aren't many women or blacks in that pool. That, or so it will be said, is because some of those schools discouraged female applicants until fairly recently and blacks, at least in the past, had a hard time in them because their undergraduate education was weak but none of this is the court's lookout.
The trouble is this song has been sung before, and the corporations and executive branch offices which rendered it have been given to learn, among other things, about "equal employment opportunity plans." Those are plans (some of which the court itself has sanctioned) that sometimes lead employers to discover there are qualified blacks and women in the hiring pool for those willing to look for them.
Over the summer, when the justices have time to reflect on what they are doing, they could do worse than to reflect on the implications of their customary way of choosing clerks. To use the justices' parlance, you don't even have to reach the question of quotas, racial balance and the rest to know that 2 blacks over 97 years and perhaps a thousand clerks is a scnadal.