Bancroft

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?

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Over the last two decades, a dedicated Supreme Court bar has gained prominence, focusing on arguing the increasingly few cases before the justices each term. These lawyers face fierce competition in persuading clients to hire them, participating in a not-so-glamorous competition known in the industry as a “beauty contest.” At these lawyerly pageants, attorneys competing to take the case make their pitch and try to persuade the client that their firm is the best suitor.

In my new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), I go backstage and look at two of the most high-profile beauty contests in Supreme Court history: who would represent (1) the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and (2) twenty-six states in their respective challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare.

How did these litigants go about choosing their counsel? Which lawyers and law firms got passed over?

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Today, the National Law Journal released its list of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. The NLJ releases a similar list once every few years, and each time, the nation’s top lawyers — some from Biglaw, some from legal academia, some from the in-house world, and some from the trial and appellate bars — celebrate their success in creating real change in the industry. That said, the people named to this list are relatively well-known to the general Above the Law readership, but they won’t exactly be household names to laypeople.

Which legal eagles soared into the NLJ’s list this time around? Well, the NLJ selected their influential lawyers based on their political clout, legal results, media penetration, business credibility, and thought leadership. We’ve whittled the impressive list of 100 down to our own top 10.

So who made our cut?

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[W]e note that the document appears to be in 12 point font, not 13 point font. I’m pretty sure this specific topic was a point of discussion among all counsel prior to filing our respective briefs, and each party appeared to recognize the continuing 13-point font requirement.

Thus, we were surprised to receive the State’s 12-point font brief. The apparent failure to comply with the Court’s order had the effect of substantially increasing the State’s page limitations and, under the circumstances, prejudices the United States.

Bradley Heard, a lawyer with the Department of Justice, in a weekend email sent to a group of attorneys from Bancroft. The firm represents South Carolina in an ongoing dispute with the DOJ over the state’s voter ID law.

(Was there a resolution in this case of prejudice by font?)

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* The Ninth Circuit denies en banc rehearing in the Prop 8 case. Can we please hurry up and get this thing in front of the Supreme Court already? [Ninth Circuit via Metro Weekly]

* Even more law schools are shrinking their class sizes. Do we have a trend on our hands yet? [Crain's Cleveland Business]

* AOL’s attorneys at DLA Piper sent a nastygram to a Maryland blogger, alleging intellectual property infringement, based on the blog’s aggregation. Because you know, AOL/the Huffington Post has never aggregated anything. [Maryland Juice]

Laura Flippin

* Speaking of DLA Piper lawyers, just before she was found guilty of public intoxication, partner Laura Flippin was also accused of lying under oath by the judge in the case. In short, things did not go as well they could have. [The Flat Hat]

* Remember the law school martyr Phillip J. Closius? He may no longer be Dean of University of Baltimore Law, but he has not finished his crusade to improve the financial security of students. Keep fightin’ the good fight, Phil. [Baltimore Sun]

* Congratulations to the 15 firms that made the NLJ’s 2012 Appellate Hot List. Most are Biglaw shops, but three elite boutiques made the cut: Bancroft, Horvitz & Levy, and Kellogg Huber. [National Law Journal]

* Ever wondered what life in prison is like? Check out this podcast, in which Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit, is interviewed by Professor Zachary Shemtob (disclosure: Shemtob is Lat’s co-author and special friend). [Cruel and Unusual: A Podcast on Punishment]

During the United States Supreme Court arguments over Obamacare, the nation got a rare treat: the chance to see (or at least hear) Paul Clement in action. Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General and current partner at Bancroft PLLC, delivered a brilliant performance before the justices, a veritable master class in appellate advocacy. As Carter Phillips, a veteran SCOTUS litigator himself, told us here at Above the Law, Clement “did a spectacularly good job” and “was just on his game… over a much longer period of time than most of us are required to do it.”

But even Clement couldn’t save Section 3 of the highly problematic Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) from going down to defeat in the First Circuit. Before a panel with a majority of Republican-appointed judges, in fact.

Let’s find out who was on the panel, whether there were any dissents, and what the court concluded….

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It is hard to beat Nirvana’s “Complete Sub Pop Singles.” And I’m a big fan of the Kooks. It’s very catchy and a little less loud than Nirvana and a little more family-friendly.

Paul Clement, the former Solicitor General and current Bancroft partner who argued Obamacare in the Supreme Court, discussing his musical tastes with the New York Times.

(Additional fun facts, plus a link to the full interview, after the jump.)

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The president looks good in a doctor's coat, no?

In a development that should surprise no one, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning agreed to review the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s signature policy achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare. This means that, before the end of the current SCOTUS Term in summer 2012, Anthony Kennedy the justices will rule on the validity of this sweeping legislation (unless they avoid the question on jurisdictional grounds, as Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit recently did — a path that might appeal to Justice Kennedy, as suggested by Professor Noah Feldman, and a path that the Court itself highlighted by mentioning the jurisdictional issue in its certiorari grant.)

In the meantime, there will be a lot of cocktail party chatter about the health care reform law and its constitutionality. If you’d like some quick talking points, for use when you get the inevitable “What do you think about this as a lawyer?” questions from friends and family at Thanksgiving, keep reading….

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We’re now in late September, so you know what that means. The first Monday in October, which starts the new Term of the Supreme Court of the United States, is just around the corner.

With that in mind, the Heritage Foundation wrangled a high-powered pair of panelists to offer their thoughts on October Term 2011:

What did Messrs. Clement and Shanmugam have to say about the upcoming SCOTUS Term?

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