The Supreme Court turns out to be the kind of bar where everybody knows your name. Over the past decade or so, a small group of lawyers with educational, professional, and social ties to the justices have staked out exclusive territory at the building known as the Marble Palace. USA Today looks at a rich web of connections—which people entangled in it insist doesn't influence judicial impartiality.
Many Court regulars attended prestigious schools, landed Supreme Court clerkships, and paid their dues in the solicitor general’s office. When they look at the high court's bench, they see friends, but a Georgetown law professor who's analyzed the phenomenon didn't investigate whether that translates to influence. "There's a certain professionalism," he says.