A Demographic Profile of Judicial Clerks

NALP Bulletin, June 2007

Each year, several thousand law school graduates obtain judicial clerkships. The table at right provides a demographic profile spanning 15 years of graduates taking judicial clerkships, both overall and at the federal, state, and local levels.

Even as the percentage of minority graduates has increased substantially over the last 15 years, minority representation among court clerks has not shown similar growth. Overall, the percentage of clerkships obtained by Caucasian graduates has decreased by just 7 percentage points since 1991. In 2005, Caucasian graduates made up 80% of all graduates, but their representation among 2005 clerks was 3 to 4 percentage points higher across all court levels. Looking at specific court levels, none have shown consistent increases in minority representation over the 15-year period. It is the case, however, that representation of Asian/Pacific Islander graduates has shown the most consistent growth across all levels of clerkships.

Racial/Ethnicity Distribution of Judicial Clerkships by Level of Clerkship —
Fifteen-Year Profile 1991 — 2005


1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005
All Clerks
Native American 0.3% 0.2% 0.5% 0.2% 0.5% 0.4% 0.6% 0.4%
Asian/Pacific Islander 2.2 3.6 5.3 5.0 5.3 5.6 6.1 6.1
African-American 5.1 5.1 5.8 5.6 5.8 6.5 5.7 6.0
Hispanic 2.1 1.9 2.8 3.3 3.6 3.5 3.0 3.5
Caucasian 90.3 88.5 85.6 85.9 84.9 83.4 84.2 83.1
Multi-racial 0.5 0.4 0.8
# of clerks 3,055 2,943 3,115 3,245 3,422 3,471 3,277 3,458
Federal Clerks
Native American 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.2
Asian/Pacific Islander 2.4 3.7 6.4 5.9 6.2 7.0 6.8 7.3
African-American 5.3 4.8 5.5 4.9 5.3 4.3 4.0 4.9
Hispanic 2.2 2.2 3.4 3.7 4.3 2.7 2.9 4.3
Caucasian 89.7 89.2 84.3 85.4 83.7 85.4 8.5 82.6
Multi-racial 0.2 0.5 0.7
# of clerks 1,334 1,228 1,263 1,250 1,338 1,336 1,263 1,267
State Clerks
Native American 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.4 0.6 0.5 0.6 0.4
Asian/Pacific Islander 2.4 3.6 4.5 4.2 4.5 4.4 5.8 5.7
African-American 4.7 4.7 5.4 5.5 5.7 7.9 7.0 6.5
Hispanic 2.1 2.7 2.1 3.2 3.2 4.0 3.5 3.2
Caucasian 90.5 88.8 87.5 86.7 86.1 82.4 82.6 83.4
Multi-racial 0.7 0.5 0.8
# of clerks 1,397 1,460 1,655 1,702 1,775 1,773 1,680 1,792
Local Clerks
Native American 0.0 0.0 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.7 0.6
Asian/Pacific Islander 0.7 2.8 5.8 4.7 4.8 5.3 4.2 4.4
African-American 6.5 10.4 9.8 9.4 8.6 7.5 5.5 6.4
Hispanic 2.0 2.9 4.6 2.5 2.2 3.4 1.0 2.9
Caucasian 90.8 84.3 78.6 83.5 84.4 82.6 88.6 84.5
Multi-racial 0.6 1.2
# of clerks 306 178 173 278 269 321 307 343

Note: All figures exclude graduates for whom race or ethnicity was not reported. The Asian/Pacific Islander category includes the East Indian/Pakistani category starting in 2001. The option of reporting more than one race/ethnicity was introduced in 2001.

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