by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In an early show of independence, Justice Neil Gorsuch declined to join the Supreme Court’s “cert pool,” an administrative division of labor that allows for efficient review of the deluge of petitions the justices receive each term.
Adam Liptak of The New York Times first reported the news late Monday, citing the Court’s public information office.
The cert pool was established in 1973 during the early days of the Burger Court, in order to efficiently review the near 8,000 petitions received each term. In practice, the petitions are apportioned among the Court’s law clerks, who then circulate a memo to the justices recommending a grant or denial. Therefore, a law clerk’s recommendation significantly affects the outcome of a petition.
In choosing not to join the pool, Gorsuch is flashing an independent streak. By having his own staff review each petition, he may be signaling misgivings about the judgements of other chambers, or of pool memos prepared by clerks who don’t share his interpretative commitments. Under the cert pool system, the justices must accept that a significant portion of petitions are reviewed by young clerks who may not share their opinions on a wide range of legal issues.