Women in the Law

Women Lawyers Argue About 15% of Supreme Court’s Cases; Do They Dislike the Verbal Jousting?

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The female litigator who has argued more Supreme Court cases than any other living woman says both sexes have the same ability to argue, but there is a difference.

Women seem less inclined to enjoy the verbal jousting, says Lisa Blatt, who made her 30th appearance before the court on Wednesday to argue a case about drug prices. According to the Associated Press, her 30 appearances still trail those of the late Beatrice Rosenberg, a Justice Department lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in the 1950s and ’60s.

Women lawyers argue only about 15 percent of the Supreme Court’s cases, leading to speculation about the reasons, the AP story says. Patricia Millett, a Supreme Court litigator who has argued 28 cases, offers another reason for the disparity. “One of the things I’m most concerned about is women self-select out of the types of things that lead to appellate Supreme Court careers,” she told AP. Some women lawyers may choose less demanding careers, she said, because of family concerns.

Lawyers who appear before the Supreme Court often have experience as Supreme Court law clerks or Justice Department lawyers. Women have not been as well-represented in either institution, the AP story says. Since the 1990s, about one-third of Supreme Court law clerks are women. Six out of about 20 lawyers in the Solicitor General’s office are women.

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