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Ace Supreme Court litigator defending DoMA, challenging health reform | Hunter of Justice

Ace Supreme Court litigator defending DoMA, challenging health reform

by on October 27, 2011  •  In Constitutional law, DoMA, Supreme Court

Paul Clement, who has argued more Supreme Court cases in the last decade than any other lawyer, is likely to be visiting the Justices again later in this term to argue against health reform and perhaps next term to try to persuade them that DoMA is constitutional. Given his skill and relative youth (45), Clement is almost certain to be offered an appellate judgeship if a Republican is elected President. And one day he might even walk up those marble Supreme Court steps as a Justice – scary thought.  This profile is excerpted from today's NY Times:

As solicitor general for three years and deputy solicitor for four [under President George W. Bush], Mr. Clement appeared before the Supreme Court 49 times, defended the administration’s detention of terrorism suspects, fought off challenges to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and validated the prosecution of medical marijuana growers in a landmark commerce case…

At the moment, he is defending both Arizona’s tough new law against illegal immigration and Congress’s prohibition against federal recognition of same-sex marriages. And if, as expected, the Supreme Court soon announces that it will hear a challenge to last year’s health care law, it seems increasingly likely that it will be Mr. Clement who argues, in the thick of the 2012 campaign, that President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is unconstitutional…

…As a former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, Mr. Clement maintains a breezy but respectful rapport with the justices. It is assumed that his familiar name on a petition can improve the 1-in-100 chance that a case will be accepted for consideration… [He] has argued more Supreme Court cases since 2000 than any other lawyer…

Florida and the other plaintiff states [challenging the health reform law] have a contract with Mr. Clement, at discounted rates, that is capped at $250,000. In the same-sex marriage case, House Republicans recently tripled the cap on his fees to $1.5 million, paid from tax coffers. Without being precise, Mr. Clement confirmed speculation that he typically bills in the range of $1,000 an hour.

Other appellate specialists say Mr. Clement brings both exhaustive preparation and acute insight to his cases. The son of an accountant and a homemaker from Cedarburg, Wis., north of Milwaukee, he received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown, a master’s in economics from Cambridge and a law degree from Harvard, where he helped edit the law review when Barack Obama was its president. Mr. Clement now lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife and three sons…

Mr. Clement is admired by colleagues and adversaries for the straightforward clarity of his presentation. He famously argues without notes, leaving his hands free to jab and gesticulate, sometimes as if wringing an imaginary neck. “He just internalizes every single aspect of the case,” said Viet D. Dinh, Mr. Clement’s law partner. “He makes the argument not from memory but from total immersion.”…

[His reputation for taking mostly conservative cause cases] was likely reinforced by Mr. Clement’s principled resignation in April from King & Spalding after the firm, under internal and external pressure, withdrew from the Defense of Marriage case.

Officials at the firm said the case had not received proper review, but acknowledged that Mr. Clement had reason to believe it would be approved. Mr. Clement said he knew his representation might offend some, but felt strongly that any act of Congress should receive a capable defense.

In his resignation letter, he stressed that he was leaving not because of his views on same-sex marriage, which he did not volunteer, but “out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”

Decamping a firm with 800 lawyers, Mr. Clement landed at one with 12, Bancroft P.L.L.C., which was founded by Mr. Dinh, a law school friend and former Justice Department colleague…

Because Mr. Clement’s name is included on most lists of potential Supreme Court candidates in a Republican administration, his caseload is scrutinized by court watchers for signs of positioning. Mr. Clement cannot help hearing the buzz, but said it played no role in his selection of cases… 

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