Copyright (c) 2000 Northwestern University Law Review
Northwestern University Law Review
Article: THE CLERK, THE THIEF, HIS LIFE AS A BAKER: ASHTON EMBRY AND THE SUPREME COURT LEAK SCANDAL OF 1919
95 Nw. U.L. Rev. 271
John B. Owens*
In Brad Meltzer's novel The Tenth Justice, young Supreme Court law clerk Ben Addison accidentally leaks an upcoming decision to a devious con man who makes millions on Wall Street with the inside information. Addison spends the rest of the book trying to catch the con man without losing his cherished clerkship, and ultimately, his life. 1 A success even before it hit the shelves, The Tenth Justice debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and was optioned to Dick Clark's movie production company. 2 When asked how he developed his intriguing "clerk leak" scenario, Meltzer explained that soon after he came up with the rough plot, he ran it by a Supreme Court clerk. Her response? "The scariest thing is, The Tenth Justice can happen." 3
But the novel's plot is not so novel - it may already have happened.
On December 16, 1919, Ashton Fox Embry, law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Joseph McKenna, abruptly resigned from the position he had held for almost nine years. His explanation? His fledgling bakery business required his undivided attention. 4 Newspapers that morning hinted at a different reason: Embry resigned because he had conspired with at least three individuals to use inside knowledge of upcoming United States Supreme Court decisions to profit on Wall Street. 5 A grand jury returned an indictment against Embry and his associates a few months later, and Embry's argument that he had committed no crime ultimately reached the Supreme Court, ...
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