Pam Bondi

iStock_000016003404_LargeRemember when state attorneys general used to band together and take down tobacco companies? The diversified power of state actors accomplished what the centralized federal government — so easily influenced by corporate lobbyists — never could. Ascendant state power short-circuited Washington’s carefully cultivated lobbying relationship. Whether working in conjunction or individually (like in New York, where Eliot Spitzer routinely embarrassed the Feds by taking the time to actually do their jobs), state AG offices became the most important public watchdogs in the country, capable of dealing significant blows to corporate bad actors much faster than any legislature.

But the powers-that-be don’t stay on the mat for long. Biglaw lobbyists have since taken the lead in targeting AGs and zealously advocating for their clients by hobnobbing with top cops at lavish functions and political fundraising events….

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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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