January 01, 2018

“It’s a Calling, Not a Job”: A Profile of General William K. Suter, 19th Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court

Insights about the Court and the man who helped lead it for 20 years.

Erin E. Rhinehart

 Download a printable PDF of this article.

For more than 20 years, one man led the United States Supreme Court. He never sat behind the bench. He never donned a black robe. He never authored a decision. But he was there. If you worked at the Court, you knew him. If you practiced before the Court, you knew him. Fueled by an incomparable passion to serve his country, General William K. Suter followed his nearly 30-year service to the U.S. Army by serving as the 19th clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with General Suter to discuss his life and time at the Court. While he describes the clerk’s role as one of “being responsible for the legal business of the Court,” it is clear upon talking with him that he transformed the position into much more. Indeed, at the Supreme Court’s retirement celebration and portrait unveiling for General Suter, Chief Justice Roberts remarked that General Suter’s “tenure as Clerk can be fairly described as momentous, even when measured against the long history of the Clerk’s Office.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., A Salute to the General: William K. Suter (July 12, 2013), www.scotusblog.com/2013/07/a-salute-to-the-general-william-k-suter/. (Suter retired from the Court on September 1, 2013.) How so, you may ask. General Suter humanized the Court for everyone who walked through its doors.

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now