Talk:Lists of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States

Active discussions

RFC: UnsplitEdit

Noticeable opposition to just merge the various seat articles, just because of article size, even the proposer recognizes this issue. However, there seems to be consensus that the current split is not ideal, and for a resplit on a different basis, probably based on time period. Randy Schutt made a concrete suggestion that got some support, but enough people didn't comment on it that I can't say there is consensus for it specifically; but I'm guessing that if someone is willing to put in the work to make some draft articles with a time period resplit, and propose them, they will probably get consensus. --GRuban (talk) 21:09, 18 August 2019 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Should this article be restored to its unsplit version, listing clerks to all Justices? RfC relisted by Cunard (talk) at 01:07, 30 June 2019 (UTC). RfC relisted by Cunard (talk) at 00:02, 19 May 2019 (UTC). NullumTempus (talk) 05:05, 10 April 2019 (UTC)

Splitting the article into seats makes exactly zero sense.

I understand that there are global policy concerns with the length of this article. That said, the current "solution" does a disservice to Wikipedia's audience in general and to the legal community in particular. Even assuming that it is appropriate to split the article along some line, "seats" is a ridiculous choice. Nobody outside Wikipedia thinks these "seats" (which are an arbitrary result of the statues that created the current composition of the Court and the historical accidents by which each seat was vacated) are meaningful; they are irrelevant to anyone researching the law, the Supreme Court, or law clerks. Dividing by Chief Justice would be much more useful (assuming that some division is required). For example, when FiveThirtyEight cited this article (, it did not discuss "seats" at all.

More fundamentally, though, editors ought to recognize that enforcing policies for policies' sake and reducing article size for size's sake are not always the best paths forward. This list used to be the one place on the internet where law clerks to the Supreme Court were gathered; readers and researchers could analyze trends in which law schools and lower-court judges sent clerks to the court. No more. Now, anyone looking to conduct such an analysis must take data from nine separate pages and combine it--only to wind up exactly where this article used to be.

True, it's probably unnecessary to list law clerks back to the beginning of the nation all in one place. But seats is not a coherent way to break the article out; rather, it seems to have been chosen solely to reduce the article size (what an achievement!). (Just Google it. Nobody except Wikipedia editors mindlessly following generally applicable but specifically irrelevant policies thinks this is a thing.) If it's killing you to have a large article (which, given that we're in the 21st century and this is all relative, takes little time to load), please break it out in a historically and legally meaningful way, not an arbitrary one.

I get the concern that not all law clerks are historically notable. They aren't. But the list as a whole is notable because the Supreme Court is an impactful institution, and it matters who gets hired as a clerk--and thus who is positioned to influence that institution. We have the data needed to provide a useful list of all clerks in a single article--and we once did so--but instead we've chosen to pointlessly break the list up across nine articles, which helps nobody because it undercuts the research value of the previous format while failing to reduce the overall amount of data used to store the article. I cannot help but conclude that the reason this article has been split up is that a bunch of editors with little else to do but sort articles by length and crusade against the long ones without bothering to understand the justification for their length happened to win the day in the latest RFC. This decision to put policy over value should be corrected.NullumTempus (talk) 05:05, 10 April 2019 (UTC)


  • Support - Just as an appearance thing and desire for better organization approach. I’d like a useful division but better to have none than a bad one. Avoid the distraction or confusion of having a division by seats. Cheers Markbassett (talk) 20:56, 13 April 2019 (UTC)
  • Support trying something else. Organizing it by seat is cumbersome and confusing. Levivich 04:55, 15 April 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose merge, support another splitting principle. There's much too much material for a re-merge. I would suggest doing this by time period, like we do with virtually everything else with a long timeline. As for the "research value" of dumping this all back into one page: a) if anyone really, really, really wants that, they can do it in their own userspace with sectional transcludes, and b) anyone incapable of understanding that a huge list has been broken into sublists, and then just going and looking at the sublists is incapable of any meaningful research.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  09:43, 15 April 2019 (UTC)
  • There is no explanation on the page as to what the seats mean, but it does give the impression they're somehow important. Given the seats don't even seem to be mentioned at Supreme Court of the United States, they don't seem to be. However, I note List of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States by seat is also by seat, and that this article was actually already organized by seat prior to the split.
My impression is that it's quite confusing to organize by seats, as the timelines don't add up and justice's move between seats. Given that, I support undoing this split if this is carried out fully in a way that this page is also not split up by seat. I would oppose recombining everything if it's just going to be exactly the same but all on one page, as it was before. A reorganization here may also point to a way to more usefully divide the article. Not by every chief justice perhaps, but given the article says clerks serve for specific terms, some number of terms may be a useful criteria. CMD (talk) 07:37, 3 May 2019 (UTC)
  • When I put all the law clerks together onto one page in 2013, I added sorting by columns which made it possible to sort by Seat, Justice, Clerk Name, Clerk's Law School, Clerk's Start and Stop Year, and previous Justice the Clerk worked for. See how this page looked in December 2018: This made it easier for researchers to track clerks and their characteristics. It was also possible to download the whole table into a spreadsheet and sort in even more ways. Note that Justices do not move from seat to seat, but Clerks do move from one Justice to another. Justices also share some clerks (especially with retired Justices). Most clerks work for only one session, but some have worked for many years like Rufus Day who worked (for his father?) from 1907-1911 and then again from 1917-1919. And look at Hugh W. Baxter: he worked for Brennan, Blackmum, and Bader from 1991-1994.
It might make sense to split the table by years with overlapping years to make it easier to follow individual clerks over the decades. In December 2018, there were 2,482 rows in the table:
Starting Year of Clerks
1880-1949 - 249 clerks
1950-1959 - 169
1960-1969 - 198
1970-1979 - 320
1980-1989 - 341
1990-1999 - 394
2000-2009 - 372
2010-2019 - 393
2020-2029 - 4
They could, for example, be split up into overlapping tables with roughly 600-850 rows each like this:
Clerks who started from 1880-1969 (616 clerks)
Clerks who started from 1960-1989 (859 clerks)
Clerks who started from 1980-1999 (735 clerks)
Clerks who started from 1990-2009 (766 clerks)
Clerks who started from 2000-2019 (765 clerks)
Clerks who started from 2010-2029 (397 clerks so far)
Or maybe it would make sense to break them up some other way. But the goal should be to be able to sort by columns and to easily track individual clerks. Randy Schutt (talk) 18:33, 4 May 2019 (UTC)
However it is legally defined, for the purposes of the Wikipedia table and related articles I mentioned in my comment, some justices do move between numbered seats to the Chief Justice seat. CMD (talk) 05:01, 8 May 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose recombining. The combined version was way, way, WAY too large an article: caused accessibility problems, and not just for the millions of users with narrow bandwidth connections to Wikipedia. UnitedStatesian (talk) 03:08, 30 June 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose recombining, Support different splitting system Agree that splitting by seat number is not the best way- no one goes around referring to justices by their seat number. The decade system proposed by Randy Schutt seems the best proposal. I would otherwise say splitting by court is the most logical system, but at 17 Chief Justices already, that's going to be too burdensome. Tchouppy (talk) 19:37, 9 July 2019 (UTC)
  • Per Wikipedia:Article titles, revert split(the seats are not commonly mentioned by reliable sources)and per WP:SPLIT, re-split into time-related lists which is also consistent because both the category systems and splits seem to use them often and sorting things by time is established, common practice everywhere.Lurking shadow (talk) 09:55, 16 August 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment, pardon me asking, but why do we even have these lists? The Supreme Court having clerks looks to be routine to me. The Supreme Court can't exist without these clerks and these are going to be endlessly existing. They'll keep having new ones over and over. I really don't see the point in the endless task of creating and maintaining these lists.Tvx1 11:34, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
    • Explain why your argument is invalid if you exchange "clerks" with "judges", but not if you use "clerks", Tvx1.Lurking shadow (talk) 15:08, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
      • I don’t understand your point here.Tvx1 15:41, 17 August 2019 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.
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