Seth Waxman

A few years ago, I was covering some conservative legal or political conference where Ted Olson was scheduled to appear. At some point before his scheduled appearance, it was announced that he’d be unable to attend. It was chalked up to a scheduling conflict, but some wondered: had Olson withdrawn because of a fear that he’d be persona non grata? This was not long after he had filed the case that’s now before the U.S. Supreme Court as Hollingsworth v. Perry, and some conservatives were unhappy with the former solicitor general’s taking up the cause of marriage equality, viewing it as a betrayal.

Oh how times have changed. Now prominent Republicans are lining up to support the cause of marriage equality in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Yes, February 14 was almost two weeks ago. But on Thursday, a bunch of leading conservatives will send Justice Anthony M. Kennedy a valentine….

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Let’s talk about two of our favorite topics: money and politics. And the combination of the two, which creates both problems and opportunities for our democracy.

On Saturday I attended an excellent New Yorker Festival panel about politics and money, featuring some impressive speakers:

What did these distinguished and high-powered panelists have to say about the influence of money on our political system?

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I think it’s important for lawyers on the other side of the political divide from Paul, who’s a very fine lawyer, to reaffirm what Paul wrote [in his resignation letter from King & Spalding]. Paul is entirely correct that our adversary system depends on vigorous advocates being willing to take on even very unpopular positions. Having undertaken to defend DOMA, he’s acting in the highest professional and ethical traditions in continuing to represent a client to whom he had committed in this very charged matter.

Seth Waxman, former U.S. Solicitor General (under President Clinton) and current WilmerHale partner, commenting to Washingtonian magazine on the decision of fellow former S.G. Paul Clement to resign from King & Spalding and join Bancroft PLLC. At Bancroft, the D.C. boutique law firm founded by former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, Clement will continue to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).


What are the differences between Washington lawyers and New York lawyers? One broad generalization — crude, but largely accurate — is that D.C. attorneys are all about power and prestige, and NYC attorneys are all about money.

It’s certainly true that, in the Biglaw world, New York-based law firms generally enjoy higher profits per partner than Washington-based firms. But D.C. attorneys aren’t doing too badly for themselves.

The latest issue of Washingtonian magazine, available now on newsstands, is the salary survey issue. It’s all about who makes what in the D.C. metro area, from the president to police officers to pediatricians.

And given the proliferation of lawyers in the nation’s capital, there’s a whole section on lawyers and judges. Thankfully for us, Washingtonian has made this portion available online….

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Wal-Mart logo Walmart AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpg* Wal-mart’s going to have a hard time keeping the price of this one down. The Ninth Circuit grants class action status to gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-mart, with plaintiffs estimated to number two million women. [New York Times]

* WilmerHale is outsourcing… to Ohio. [ABA Journal]

* Should California AG Jerry Brown investigate the Gizmodo blogger’s computer seizure? [True/Slant]

* Actor Randy Quaid sues his lawyer. [TMZ]

* Carter Phillips and Seth Waxman teamed up to help McDermott, Will & Emery and Medtronic get out of a $4.3 million sanction. [Legal Recorder]

* Matthew McConaughey to play The Lincoln Lawyer. [Variety]

* Anonymous jury to hear the case of an American student accused of aiding al-Qaida fighters. [Associated Press]

Shon Hopwood.jpg“I used to be a bank robber.”

That’s an attention-grabbing lede for a personal essay for a law school application. Or:

“The Supreme Court granted my very first petition for cert. And then ruled in my favor unanimously.”

Shon Hopwood, 34, could start his application with either one of those statements. Convicted of five robberies in Nebraska in the late ’90s, he was sentenced to prison for 13 years, writes Adam Liptak in the New York Times:

Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars — an accomplished Supreme Court practitioner.

Hopwood wrote a petition for cert for a fellow inmate, John Fellers, in 2002. Not only was it granted, veteran Supreme Court advocate Seth Waxman says, “It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read.”

High praise for a dude who doesn’t even have a law degree…

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WilmerHale Wilmer Hale 2 Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGWe bring you news of a career move by one of America’s most fabulous young lawyers. From a press release issued by WilmerHale:

WilmerHale is pleased to announce that Rachel L. Brand and Mark D. Nelson will join the firm’s Washington, DC public policy and strategy practice focusing on congressional investigations, regulatory affairs and crisis management. Ms. Brand will also be active in the firm’s government litigation and defense and national security practices. Ms. Brand was most recently Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy, where she served as chief policy and regulatory advisor to the Attorney General and managed the confirmation process for Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Wait, hold on a sec — Rachel Brand? As in young-conservative-superstar Rachel Brand, known in some circles as the Federalist Society Prom Queen?
Are you sure there hasn’t been some mistake? Maybe Brand went to another D.C. law firm whose name starts with a “W,” like Wiley Rein — perhaps a more natural home for a prominent Republican attorney?
WilmerHale, after all, is one of Washington’s most high-profile, left-leaning law firms. It’s home to leading liberal lawyers like former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, a possible Attorney General or Defense Secretary in a Democratic administration; former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, a possible judicial (D.C. Circuit?) nominee; Randy Moss, former head of the DOJ’s super-elite Office of Legal Counsel; and Howard Shapiro, former general counsel to the FBI. [FN1]
But no, it’s true — Brand is at Wilmer Hale. Word on the street, in fact, is that the firm is actively looking for Republican lawyers like Brand and Nelson. Perhaps they need someone to hold down the fort when everyone bails to serve in the Obama Administration?
We spoke to Rachel Brand yesterday, her first day of work. You know how useless first days can be — paperwork, orientation, technology training. “They taught me how to turn on my computer,” she quipped.
As for her new gig, Brand expressed excitement about the opportunity to join WilmerHale, “a great firm with some incredible lawyers.” She noted the abundance of lawyers with government experience at WilmerHale and said that her skill set fit well with the firm.
We wish Brand and Nelson the best of luck in their new professional home.
(We tried to contact Nelson but were unable to reach him. The WilmerHale telephone operator did not have an extension for him. Perhaps he isn’t in the office yet? If he is, someone needs to give his phone number to the receptionist.)
[FN1] As it turns out, a number of prominent Republicans are current or former WilmerHale partners. E.g., current partner Reginald Brown, who most recently served in the White House Counsel’s office, and former partner C. Boyden Gray, currently U.S. ambassador to the European Union Special Envoy for EU Affairs.
WilmerHale Adds Top DOJ and Congressional Investigation Lawyers To Public Policy and Strategy Team [WilmerHale]

Seth Waxman 6 Seth P Waxman Above the Law Above the Law.JPG

“You mean to tell me that this guy has argued before the Supreme Court? This guy, in the button-down shirt? Seriously?”
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Here are the remaining photos from our recent Movie Night With Justice Breyer. The first batch was posted over here.
As we previously explained, these pictures are pretty awful — dark and blurry. Because of all the priceless art lying around, we weren’t allowed use a flash inside the darkened precincts of the Phillips Collection.
And we’re not great at photography to begin with. And we could use a better camera. (Did you catch that, Sony and Canon publicists?)
But if you’re looking for a break from all the law firm pay raise coverage, maybe you’ll appreciate them. Check them out, after the jump.

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Stephen Breyer 2 Stephen G Breyer Dan Froomkin Above the Law.JPG
Poor Justice Breyer — he’s totally trapped! (But nice necktie, Your Honor. Is it Hermes?)

Supreme Court justices: They’re just like us. They get cornered at cocktail parties by matronly women they don’t really know.

And no, that’s not Beverly D’Angelo, aka Barbara “Babs” Miller of Entourage. We wish.

But yes, that is the Washington Post’s Dan FroomkinFROOMKIN!!! — over her shoulder, on the far right.
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Last week, we attended a movie night with Justice Stephen G. Breyer, sponsored by The Week magazine. It was held at the Phillips Collection, an amazing modern art museum here in Washington, DC. We were treated to cocktails and dinner, followed by a screening of The Third Man — Justice Breyer’s cinematic selection.
Photographs, plus brief commentary, after the jump.

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