Judge Sonia Sotomayor regularly sends her law clerks to the records office at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There, they gather up the entire history of cases on which Sotomayor is writing an opinion or dissent — all the motions in limine, the briefs on summary judgment, everything that came up from the district court.

Not many of Sotomayor’s fellow judges do the same thing, said Melissa Murray, who clerked for her in 2003 and 2004. “There were very few cases where we had to fight with other chambers to get the record,” recalled Murray, who now teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.