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Two female judicial pioneers — one from the United States and the other from the United Kingdom — compared notes at Georgetown University Law Center last week. Lady Brenda Hale, the first woman law lord in the British House of Lords, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg contrasted their judicial systems, with a special spotlight on the United Kingdom, which is separating its highest judges from the House of Lords and creating a more independent Supreme Court as of 2009. One marked difference between the two courts is that the legal assistants employed by the British law lords have significantly less power than the U.S. equivalent, the justices’ law clerks. Hale said that on her court, the 12 law lords share four legal assistants, whose main job is to summarize incoming petitions. But unlike Supreme Court law clerks, they do not recommend whether to grant or deny review, and she said they “never, ever, ever write our judgments. .�.�. That would be considered very wrong.” U.S. justices hire up to four clerks each, and most write first drafts of opinions for their justices. The discussion was sponsored by the Supreme Court Fellows Program Alumni Association on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the program, with help from Georgetown and the Supreme Court Historical Society. Georgetown University Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff moderated the discussion.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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