Clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada


  • Mitchell McInnes
  • Janet Bolton
  • Natalie Derzko



This article takes an in-depth look at the law clerks and the role they play at the Supreme Court of Canada. Such an examination both informs prospective clerks on the nature of the position and promotes a better general understanding of how the judicial process operates at this level. The authors begin their analysis by looking at the history of the law clerks at the Supreme Court. Although the functions of the clerks have changed little since their introduction in 1968, the clerkship program has evolved with a changing Supreme Court, contributing to the institutions "coming of age." The authors then shift their attention to examining the present clerkship program. The article first reveals the manner in which the clerks are selected by the Court. Using data collected by a questionnaire sent to clerks of the 1991-93 terms, the authors also attempt to convey, in a general way, some sense of the people who have served at the Court in recent years. Next, the major functions performed by the clerks are described. While the clerks do have a great deal of responsibility, the authors dispel much of the criticism directed at United States Supreme Court clerks by stating that the law clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada do not have an improper degree of authority. The authors conclude that the clerking experience benefits both the clerks themselves and the procedures of the Court. As such, the law clerks are an entrenched and indispensable part of the judicial process at the Supreme Court of Canada.