November 01, 2013

An Interview with Clerk of the Supreme Court William K. Suter

By Peter M. Koelling

William Suter served as the 19th clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court for more than 22 years prior to his retirement in August 2013. He is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and Tulane University School of Law. From 1962 to 1991 he served in the U.S. Army. He rose to the rank of major general and was the acting Judge Advocate General of the Army when he retired and joined the Court.

Peter M. Koelling: The clerk’s office is where everything comes first. Have the filings with the Court remained steady or have they changed over time?

William K. Suter: When I came here about 22 years ago, cert. petitions, which are the meat of our business, we got about 2,000 per year that were paid. Paid petitions have a printed brief and pay a $300 filing fee. These are usually from a law firm; from a state, county, or federal government; a business; or something like that. That number—2,000—has not changed in many years, going back to the ’70s until now—2,000 a year. The in forma pauperis cases are those where they can handwrite and they do not have to pay a fee; they have to meet the rules of the Court, but we relax the rules slightly. There are about 6,000 of those today. That number, when I came here, was about 3,000 22 years ago and now it’s 6,000, but it has leveled off in the last few years. There are a total of 8,000 petitions.

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