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Lawyer Is Tops When It Comes To U.S. Supreme Court

Publication Date: 
June 07, 2012
Source: 
Daily Journal
Author: 
Robert Iafolla

Professor Jeff Fisher is singled out as the leading California lawyer at the U.S. Supreme Court by Robert Iafolla in the Daily Journal for his work in arguing 13 cases before the court since moving to the golden state in 2006. Fisher discusses his time before the court and how his work as Co-Director of Stanford's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic keeps him fulfilled by allowing him to keep "one foot in the academic world and the other in practice."

Over the past six years, Stanford Law School's Jeffrey L. Fisher has emerged as the leading California lawyer at the U.S. Supreme Court. Nobody else even comes close.

He has argued 13 cases at the Supreme Court since moving to the Golden State in 2006 - a time period when just six other California lawyers appeared more than once. That group argued a combined 13 cases.

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"I was clerking at the court when the Supreme Court bar was getting serious, and at that point it was primarily a bar for business interests," Fisher said. "Criminal defendants did suffer an imbalance in the quality of their representation, and that seemed to be a need and an opportunity."

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It turned out to be the right fit for Fisher. "The clinic lets me keep one foot in the academic world and the other in practice," he said. "That's where I most naturally sit, and I wouldn't be fulfilled if I wasn't doing both."

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Stanford's clinic works on six to 10 cases at the cert petition stage each year. Fisher said the court has granted approximately 40 percent of the clinic's petitions, an impressive rate. He's argued the bulk of those cases, while co-director Karlan and Kevin K. Russell of Goldstein & Russell have handled the others.

"When Jeff came to the clinic, it was already appearing pretty frequently at the court," Karlan said, "but it's ratcheted up a level from where it had been before."

Fisher said Supreme Court clinics' most fundamental impact is addressing the imbalance in the quality of representation that first motivated him as a law clerk.

"To the extent outcomes are affected by resources and effectiveness of counsel and you've got well-heeled interests on the other side, hopefully clinics can help make better and more balanced law," Fisher said.

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The clinic allows Fisher to focus on a small number of cases without the pressure of billable hours or business generation. He said being based outside the capital hasn't hurt his practice - and to the contrary, he's found an advantage.

"Even though 98 percent of the work is done out here, I go to D.C. by myself to hole up and focus with no distractions to get in the mindset for oral arguments," Fisher said.