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Argument Cycle Dominated By Veterans

Publication Date: 
August 03, 2009
The National Law Journal
Marcia Coyle

Professors Jeffrey Fisher, Pam Karlan and Kathleen Sullivan, lecturers Tom Goldstein and Kevin Russell, and the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic were called out in the National Law Journal as leading litigators of the Supreme Court bar. Marcia Coyle reports:

In a remarkable feat, by the end of April arguments in the 2008-09 term, two veteran U.S. Supreme Court advocates each had argued six cases, and attorneys from just three firms and one law school clinic stood at the podium in nearly 35% of the term's 78 argued cases.

The term was a testament to the growing size and influence of the private Supreme Court bar. By rough count, experienced high court practitioners argued in at least half of the 78 cases, and they broke into an area long represented by legal specialists — environmental law.


"I found extraordinary and breathtaking that two Supreme Court private practitioners had six arguments," said another Supreme Court advocate, Thomas Goldstein, co-head of the litigation and Supreme Court practices at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who argued three cases, winning two and losing one.

The three firms and law school clinic with appearances in 27 of the arguments were: Sidley Austin with eight (six by Phillips and one each by partners Robert Hochman and Gary Feinerman); Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic with seven (two apiece by Goldstein, professor Jeffrey Fisher and lecturer Kevin Russell and one by professor Pamela Karlan); Gibson Dunn's Olson with six; and Mayer Brown with six (two each by partner Andrew Pincus and special counsel Charles Rothfeld and one each by partners Andrew Frey and Stephen Shapiro).


Phillips, Goldstein and others noted that Supreme Court practitioners broke into representation of business interests in environmental cases this term. Making those arguments — all successful — were Olson; Maureen Mahoney, head of Latham & Watkins' appellate and constitutional practice; and Kathleen Sullivan, chair of the national appellate practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges.

"I can't imagine there having been before such a high proportion of arguments by lawyers with Supreme Court experience in the modern era," said Goldstein, "and I doubt it will happen again for long, long time, even though that is the trajectory."