Lindsay Harrison front steps SCOTUS.jpgLindsay Harrison at One First Street. Photo by Patrice Gilbert.

Earlier this year, we conducted an interview of Lindsay C. Harrison, an associate in the Washington office of Jenner & Block. In January, Lindsay had the privilege of arguing before the United States Supreme Court — in her first oral argument ever. We chatted with her about the argument she presented in what was then Nken v. Mukasey and is now Nken v. Holder: what she wore, how she prepared, who was mean to her at argument.

This morning, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case. And even though Lindsay took the “liberal” position, she prevailed — by a 7-2 margin, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the Court. Congratulations, Lindsay!

Here’s a summary of the decision, from the ABA Journal:

A court of appeals retains its traditional authority to grant stays in deportation cases, despite a 1996 statute that limited the circumstances in which courts may block the removal of aliens, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a 7-2 opinion…..

The government had argued that a provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 limited the circumstances in which stays could be granted. The Supreme Court disagreed, saying the statutory provision — on injunctions blocking the removal of aliens — leaves intact the court’s traditional authority to grant stays….

Harrison says the decision is “a critical victory” for [Jean Marc] Nken. “It’s a case that could really literally mean life or death for my client,” she says. “If he were deported while his appeal was pending, he is likely to be killed or jailed or tortured in Cameroon.”

As Lindsay told us in our earlier interview, she and her colleagues at Jenner in D.C. have devoted hundreds — by now, thousands — of hours to the case (pro bono). It looks like the Chicago office of Jenner isn’t the only one that can burn the midnight oil.

(Digression: One tipster is skeptical of the claim that Jenner’s office in Chicago is busy round-the-clock: “Amusing article about a condo owner who can’t sleep because her new next door neighbor, Jenner & Block, leaves its lights on all the time. Every lawyer in Chicago knows that Jenner is faking it — it’s like the guy who slips into the office on Sunday for two minutes, just to be seen by anyone who happens to be there.”)

This afternoon, we caught up with Lindsay Harrison over the phone. Our interview, after the jump.


ATL: So — how are you feeling?

LCH: I feel pretty good actually! I’m very excited.

ATL: How did you learn of the decision? Where were you — at Court?

LCH: I was at work. The clerk’s office called at 10:03 and said that they announced the decision that morning. They left a message because I was not at my desk. I was in a colleague’s office, pressing “refresh” repeatedly on SCOTUSblog. That’s when they left me a voice mail.

In the voice mail, the person from the clerk’s office summarized the disposition as “vacated and remanded.” So I was thinking — what was vacated and remanded? Was the Supreme Court’s own stay vacated, or was it the lower court decision denying the stay?

Finally the opinion came up on the Supreme Court website. My colleague wanted to read it through carefully, but I said, “Go ahead to the end of the syllabus, so we can see who won!”

ATL: Did you have a sense of how it was going to turn out?

LCH: We figured that the opinion would be written by either the Chief [Justice] or Justice Kennedy, based on who had written what earlier in the Term. I had a good feeling about the Chief, based on the argument. He was very engaged in trying to find an answer.

ATL: And what about the remand — are you concerned about that?

LCH: My mind did immediately go to the remand. What can I do to make sure my client obtains the relief that he needs? This case just addressed the right standard for applying for a stay — so now we are back to how I get him permanent relief.

ATL: I think I saw that the two dissenters, Justices Thomas and Alito, were silent at oral argument — am I right about that?

LCH: Yes. It’s a little frustrating; maybe if we could have engaged on the issue, they might have come around.

ATL: Any thoughts on the opinion — anything strike you as particularly interesting?

LCH: The question of whether or not a stay is an injunction has never been squarely addressed in a Supreme Court case — just in dicta, or circuit opinions. So this is a first.

ATL: Any other fun tidbits?

LCH: There’s a good anecdote by Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog. This morning, Eric Holder was introduced to the Court as attorney general. As he is walking out of the courtroom, Chief Justice Roberts starts to announce the decision in Nken versus Holder — and emphasizes the “versus Holder” part, to laughs from the audience. So Holder turns around, stays, and listens to the decision.

ATL: So, what are you doing next? Are you going to Disney World?

LCH: I’m going to work on a brief on habeas case — a pro bono matter, a death penalty case in Georgia. Tonight I’m having drinks with a friend who clerked for Justice Thomas, which should be fun — we can toast to the dissent, I suppose. And then this weekend, I’m going to Minneapolis, to a bat mitzvah in the Mall of America.

ATL: Wait — the bat mitzvah is in the Mall of America? Or is it in Minneapolis, and you’re going to visit the Mall of America?

LCH: The bat mitzvah reception, the dinner, is in the Mall of America.

ATL: Wow, that’s kinda awesome. Have fun — and congrats again!

Nken v. Holder (PDF) [U.S. Supreme Court]

Nken v. Holder [ScotusWiki / SCOTUSblog]

Jenner & Block Secures Landmark Immigration Law Win [Jenner & Block (press release)]

Jenner Associate Wins Supreme Court Pro Bono Victory in Immigration Case [ABA Journal]

Jenner & Block Associate Wins Pro Bono Case Before U.S. Supreme Court [Law.com]

Court makes it easier to fight deportation [AP]

Trump tower Chicago complaint: Bright lights are a big pain [Chicago Tribune]

Earlier: Jenner & Block Associate Argues Her First Case – In the Supreme Court