Solicitor General’s Office

Tomorrow President Obama will officially announce his nomination of Elena Kagan, current Solicitor General and former Harvard Law School dean, to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. The news might get leaked unofficially tonight, so stay tuned.

We have no reason to question this prediction by Politico — and several reasons support it. The biggest clue is that Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.), viewed by many as Kagan’s closest competitor, was notified yesterday by the White House that she (Wood) will not be the nominee.

OVERALL EXPLANATORY UPDATE: Apologies for the many updates and corrections below. The short version of what happened is that I originally reported that Judge Wood was notified yesterday that she wouldn’t be the nominee. I got some pushback on that — because it was, in fact, wrong. I corrected the item. But then, about two hours after this post first went up, Judge Wood did get a call from President Obama, informing her that he had decided to go in another direction.

UPDATE (7:00 PM): Some supporters of Judge Wood are denying that she’s out of the running. But, to the extent that Judge Wood hasn’t confirmed her getting dinged to them, I suspect she’s just trying to be a team player, by doing her part not to steal Kagan’s thunder or spoil the White House “surprise.”

UPDATE (7:30 PM): To the Wood supporters who insist she’s still waiting for a call from the White House: if she is the nominee, shouldn’t she know by now? Over at SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein is reporting that “[t]he Administration plans to identify its nominee in ‘guidance’ at 7:20am tomorrow morning, with a formal announcement by the President at 11am.”

CORRECTION (7:45 PM): Okay. I’m now hearing, on VERY good authority, that Judge Wood was NOT notified yesterday. So she is still (technically) in contention. I continue to believe that Kagan will be the nominee — but I’d be happy to be wrong about this, since I previously predicted that Judge Wood would be nominated. (My colleague Elie Mystal, meanwhile, has been predicting Kagan all along.)

UPDATE (8:45 PM): I can now say — with absolute, 100 percent certainty, from the same VERY good authority — that Judge Wood was just informed that she’s not going to be the nominee. President Obama did not tell her who has been picked for the position.

UPDATE (10:15 PM): The nominee is going to be Kagan.

The past few days have brought additional clues that point in Kagan’s direction….

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Judge Wood was notified tonight that she’s not the nominee.

office of solicitor general.gifIn our reader poll on possible Supreme Court nominees — which is still open, by the way — Solicitor General Elena Kagan is leading the pack, at least in terms of the predictive poll. At the current time, a majority of respondents believe that she will be nominated by President Obama to the seat of Justice John Paul Stevens. (On the prescriptive side, i.e., who SHOULD be nominated to replace JPS, a plurality of you want to see Judge Diane Wood get the nod.)

So Kagan may soon be leaving the SG’s office. But new talent is coming aboard, starting in September or so, through the Bristow Fellowship program. These staggeringly prestigious fellowships allow recent law school graduates, typically coming out of clerkships with federal appellate judges (often feeder judges), to get involved in the work of the Solicitor General’s office, representing the United States before the Supreme Court.

We’re a little late in bringing you the news of the Bristow hires — they were notified weeks (even months) ago — but better late than never. A reader email reminded us that we hadn’t covered the announcement. So we did some digging and obtained their names.

So who are the new Bristow Fellows? Do we know their law schools and clerkships?

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With apologies to John Paul “I’m not dead yet” Stevens, speculation has been rampant about who will replace him, if he decides to retire.

Many of the names that came up after Souter retired are bubbling back to the surface, but U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has to be considered the front runner. Obama hasn’t said anything and Stevens is, you know, still there — but that didn’t stop the Harvard Crimson from handicapping the chances of former Harvard Law School Dean Kagan:

In the face of Justice John Paul Stevens’ impending retirement, the nomination of former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan for the open seat on the Supreme Court has become a likely prospect.

If she is selected as President Barack Obama’s nominee, Kagan—who currently serves as the nation’s first female Solicitor General—will face a number of challenges on the road toward confirmation, including her lack of experience as a judge, her religious background, and her stance on the military.

Man, the “impending retirement” of J.P. Stevens is turning into a a Monty Python skit. But, so long as we’re here, let’s take another look at that religious question. It might be the only thing that could scuttle Kagan’s ascendancy to the high Court…

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Sorry, we didn’t mean to get your hopes up (or maybe we did). The famously sphinx-like Justice Thomas did not ask a question at oral argument yesterday — but he did open his mouth and emit hearty laughs. From CNN:

Sometimes the most complicated of cases at the Supreme Court brings out the best arguments. It certainly brought out the giggles in a little-watched appeal Tuesday over federal prison terms.

The justices managed to crack themselves up — along with the public audience — at least a dozen times in the hour-long oral debate. Justice Clarence Thomas rarely speaks at the high court’s normally sober sessions, but he especially enjoyed the gentle insults and self-deprecating jibes his colleagues showered on each other. His booming laugh could be clearly heard at times.

So what gave CT a case of the chuckles during Barber v. Thomas?

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office of solicitor general.gifStudents who received a prestigious Bristow Fellowship with the Solicitor General’s Office will be informed today.

The Office of the Solicitor General confirmed with us this morning that the decisions have been made and successful applicants will be told today. If you applied, you might want to keep your phone lines open.

But if you are a student from Yale Law School, this year might not be your year. An inside source tells us that no student from Yale received a fellowship this year.

That’s rough. Students from Yale Law are getting shut down before Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan even takes over. But we shouldn’t expect Kagan to be unduly influenced by Harvard-Yale competition in her new role. Talent always rises.

Let us know which schools did well in securing a fellowship this year in the comments.

Kannon Shanmugam Kannon K Shanmugam AboveTheLaw Above the Law.jpgAs the old saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a lawyer to be hired as a lateral partner at Williams & Connolly.” The last lateral partner to be hired by the super-elite litigation shop, which people and corporations turn to when they’re in the deepest of doo-doo, was Gerald Feffer, brought into the fold over two decades ago.

So this latest move is fairly big news. Appellate superstar Kannon Shanmugam, one of Washington’s top 40 lawyers under 40 (see #21), is leaving the Solicitor General’s office, where he has served for the past four years as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’ll be joining Williams & Connolly — as a partner.

“It’s very hard to leave the Justice Department, but I’m excited about the challenge of helping to build the appellate practice at Williams & Connolly,” Shanmugam told us. “It’s arguably the best firm for litigation in the country, but what ultimately attracted me to the firm is its distinctive culture.”

“We are thrilled to have Kannon join us,” said Robert Barnett, a member of the firm’s Executive Committee (and author rep to the stars — he’s negotiated book deals for the Clintons, Barack Obama, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, among others). “He’s our first lateral partner in 22 years, which is indicative of how rarely we have lateral partners join us.”

“Almost everyone at the firm is homegrown, coming up through the associate ranks and making partner,” explained Barnett to ATL. “Kannon, because of his exceptional qualities, is going to be a rare exception to that pattern. On a personal level, he’s a terrific individual. But we are also extremely respectful and welcoming of his legal skills.”

Word on the street is that Shanmugam received offers from about half a dozen other firms. “He was sought by many firms, and being as competitive as we are, we’re pleased to have won the Kannon sweepstakes,” said Bob Barnett.

Additional discussion, after the jump.

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W&C’s first lateral partner in 22 years

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