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Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., has decided, at least for now, to join the so-called cert pool. That’s the name given to the group of U.S. Supreme Court 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 chief justice, Roberts announced in October that he would participate for at least his first year on the Court. The pool has been criticized for giving clerks too much power to determine the fate of cases. Roberts himself said in a 1997 speech that he found the pool “a little disquieting,” and suggested creating “parallel pools” so that each petition would be read by at least two clerks instead of just one, as is presently the case. But Roberts has opted to go with the flow for now. The pool for the current term was already operating by the time he arrived, with the participation of clerks for his predecessor, William Rehnquist. Veteran high court advocate Carter Phillips, a partner in the D.C. office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood who is also a critic of the cert pool, says Roberts’s move does not rule out future reforms: “I know he has misgivings about the pool, and it will be easier to recommend changes after he has some experience with it from the inside.”

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