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Order in the Courts: A History of the Federal Court Clerk's Office

Scott L. Messinger
January 1, 2002

A chronological study of the development of the clerk's office as an institution from its creation by Congress in 1789 to the present. The report uses legislative material and other primary sources to describe the changing nature of the clerks' duties over the course of American history. The report also describes and explains the transformation of the clerks from relatively autonomous office-holders who earned their livings from the fees that their offices could generate to salaried employees of a federal judicial bureaucracy whose work was, and is, subject to a significant amount of oversight by various agencies of the government. The study emphasizes the clerks' contributions to judicial administration on a national level, but it provides a framework within which others can reconstruct the role of clerks in individual courts.