The number of women who hold law clerkships with the US Supreme Court has dropped to only seven out of the 37 law clerkships available for the 2006-2007 term. This is the first time that the number of female clerks has dropped into the single digits since 1994, reports the New York Times. Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito hired no female clerks this term. Moreover, only three of the 37 clerks are people of color, according to Legal Times.
In the recent past, the percentage of women law clerks has been over 30 percent. The greatest gender equity occurred in 2002, which the Legal Times attributes to public outcry in 1998 over the extreme lack of diversity in clerks. Following this protest, Congress, during hearings about the Court’s budget, told the justices to make a greater effort at diversity in hiring their clerks. When the responsibility for the Court’s budget changed committees two years ago, this questioning stopped.
Justices blame the lack of women in this year’s hiring as a fluke in the applicant pool, according to the New York Times. The Legal Times speculates that the lack of women and minorities as clerks can be attributed to the narrow standards that justices use when hiring clerks. Each justice is allowed to hired four clerks, with the exception of the chief justice, who is allowed five.