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    January 14, 2008  

Seth Waxman:
High Court Gunslinger

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Life is coming full circle for Seth Waxman, Solicitor General from 1997-2001 and partner at WilmerHale.? In 1992 he argued his first Supreme Court case, squaring off against a Deputy Solicitor General in Winthrow v. Williams, a habeas corpus appeal.? On December 5, he was back for his 51st argument (ho-hum) at the High Court, arguing another habeas case-this time, challenging legislative restrictions on review for Guantanamo detainees in Boumediene v. Bush.? His old adversary from the SG's office was there again, too-his name is John Roberts.


Back when Seth was a trial lawyer at Miller Cassidy, his wife explained to their toddler children that their dad was like a "gunslinger."? Daughter Sarah took it literally: ?On vacation with her mom in Aspen, the six-year-old pointed to this carved figure and said "There's Daddy!"? The moment was so charming that Seth's wife had it shipped to his office.?


Seth's 1992 argument didn't seem destined to make a big splash.? Bill Clinton was elected President on the day of the argument, so CNN had other things to do.? And Seth's case looked like a dog.? Another guy in the SG's office who's been known to be right about a legal point or two-Miguel Estrada (see our recent profile)-said the "government couldn't lose" the issue, which dealt with habeas review of Miranda claims.?

Seth defied predictions and won the case.? Clinton must have taken note:? five years later, he made Seth his Solicitor General.? (Estrada took note, too.? Most recently, he helped conduct a moot court for Seth in Boumediene.)


Would you believe that this guy ever had to lose 40 pounds?? Nearly seven years of seven-day weeks in the SG's office kept Seth out of the gym.? When he came to Wilmer in 2001, he found that buffet-style meals in the law firm presented their own obstacle to getting fit.? Obviously, he found a way to overcome temptation.?


After leaving the SG post, Seth spent nine months mulling his options.? He flirted with Brookings, a few non-profits, and the corporate world, but landed back in private practice.? Having plotted the legal strategy of the federal government for four years, Seth got lots of calls from big business wanting him to do similar, high-level strategizing for their broad litigation problems.? Seth says he enjoys his current relationships with institutional clients like Hartford Financial Services, Monsanto, Harvard University, and the California Table Grape Commission (hmmm, maybe that's his weight-loss secret).


Sarah is now at Penn, where she was named National Goalie of the Year on a lacrosse team that went to the Final Four for the first time in school history.? His oldest son Noah has moved to New Delhi and his youngest, Ethan, will be going to Harvard.? Ethan's currently on a gap year in which he's climbed Kilimanjaro, taught school in East Africa, and is making his way toward an ascent of Mount McKinley.


Of course, the gunslinger in Seth also relishes one-off appellate cases, like his recent representation of TiVo in a Federal Circuit appeal of litigation with EchoStar.? He's even satisfied his academic leanings with an appointment at Georgetown Law.? Most recently, he taught an undergraduate class on the Supreme Court, Foreign Affairs, and the Law of War.? Even gunslingers know how to keep their powder dry.

Andrews Kurth
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