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ROBERTS DECIDES TO JUMP INTO CERT POOL WASHINGTON � Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has decided to jump in the pool — at least for now. That’s the so-called cert pool, the group of justices whose law clerks divvy up incoming petitions for certiorari to produce a single memo about each case. In one of his first major decisions about how he will operate as a justice, Roberts, when asked about the pool last week said through the court public information office that he was joining it for at least his first year. That qualifier went unexplained, but it at least suggests that once Roberts gets settled in, he may take another look. With eight justices � all except John Paul Stevens � participating, the pool has come in for criticism for giving individual clerks too much power to determine the fate of cases. Even Stevens does not read all the incoming petitions, which means that most are never seen by any justice. Back when Roberts was a practitioner who had to explain to clients why clerks were the only ones reading his work product, Roberts himself said that he found the pool “a little disquieting.” So when he took the reins of the court Oct. 3, it seemed possible that Roberts might stay out of the pool or, as he suggested in 1997, create “parallel pools” so that each petition would be looked at by at least two pool clerks. But Roberts opted instead to go with the flow for now. The pooling arrangement for this term was already well underway by the time he arrived, with his predecessor William Rehnquist’s clerks participating. “This is a major issue for the court, whether they will put more checks in place” on the pool system, said Northern Illinois University political science professor Artemus Ward. The need is especially great, Ward said, if Stevens, the last holdout, departs in the next few years. � Legal Times

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