Oral argument before the Supreme Court is ripe with dramatic possibilities. If you doubt this, check out Arguendo, the new work by Elevator Repair Service that just received a rave review from the New York Times. I saw “Arguendo” last weekend, before I participated in an on-stage conversation with director John Collins, and I was impressed by how well the play captures the drama, comedy, and even athleticism of appellate argument. (Buy tickets here — but act quickly, since they’re going fast.)
If oral argument is a form of theater, then the U.S. Supreme Court is Broadway — the biggest and best venue in all the land. And we’ve just learned about a brilliant understudy who will be making her debut at One First Street next month.
Expectations are running high for this talented protégé of a celebrated SCOTUS litigator. Who is playing Eve Harrington to Paul Clement’s Margo Channing?
Sorry, I just had to squeeze in a reference to All About Eve, my favorite movie of all time. There is no evidence that the young lawyer in question, Erin Murphy of Bancroft, is as deliciously diabolical as Eve.
To the contrary, we’ve heard only great things about Murphy. Volokh Conspirator Will Baude referred to her as “immensely talented.” Professor Josh Blackman, author of Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), described her in these pages as “superlative.”
So which case is Murphy arguing before the high court? Here’s a report from Tony Mauro of The BLT:
The plaintiffs in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the next major Supreme Court case attacking campaign finance regulation, have hired Erin Murphy, a protege of former solicitor general Paul Clement, to argue before the court on October 8.
Murphy, counsel at the Bancroft firm in D.C., and Clement, a partner at the firm, confirmed this morning that Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee had picked Bancroft for the high-profile argument.
The good news for Murphy is bad news for James Bopp Jr., counsel of record for the RNC, who was supposed to be arguing the case as of two weeks ago. But Bopp probably doesn’t feel too bad; the veteran SCOTUS litigator has enough quills to feather a goose.
Murphy may have less Supreme Court argument experience than Bopp, but her glittering résumé provides ample reassurance:
Murphy, 33, has argued before several appeals courts but not at the Supreme Court, though she was the crucial second-chair lawyer for Clement when he argued the Affordable Care Act cases in 2012. She clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. in 2008-2009 and was a Bristow Fellow in the solicitor general’s office. She worked with Bancroft founder Viet Dinh and with Clement at King & Spalding before he joined Bancroft in 2011. Murphy’s law degree is from Georgetown University Law Center and she has an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
As for why the RNC didn’t go with Clement, it seems he was already booked up that week: he’s arguing before the Court in Troice, a big securities fraud case, on the preceding day, October 7.
So Paul Clement won’t be at the podium in McCutcheon, but it sounds like Shaun McCutcheon and the RNC are in good hands. We have every confidence that Erin Murphy will deliver a bravura performance, “fully equipped with fire and music.”
UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): For the SCOTUS devotees among you, please come to the event that we’re hosting on the evening of Thursday, October 17. I’ll chat about the upcoming Term with Tom Goldstein, a leading Supreme Court advocate. Just fill out the RSVP form here (at the end of the post). Hope to see you there!
Republicans Tap New Talent to Argue Key Campaign Case [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]
New Talent for October Oral Arguments [Volokh Conspiracy via Non-Sequiturs]
Full-Frontal Justice, a Matter of Redress [New York Times]