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    July 10, 2008  

Supreme Court Wrap:
Akin Gump,
Mayer Brown,

Big shout-out to great sponsor Venable. From the courthouse steps to the halls of Congress, Venable knows Washington and is proud to welcome Greg Gill, Tiffany Moore and John O'Neill to its Government and Legislative Affairs Group.


Stay tuned for the stirring conclusion of our 30 Under 30 next week, but we're interrupting for a few big thoughts on the Supremes' just-wrapped term. For expert insight we turned first to Patricia Millett, who argued 25 cases before the high court as Assistant to the Solicitor General ('96-'07) before landing at Akin Gump.


Any big surprises this term? Patricia says that in a few opinions on hot-buttons, which she expected to be 5-4 with Justice Kennedy as the swing, the Court found more common ground than expected. In particular, she cites rejected challenges to Indiana's voter ID law (Crawford v. Marion County, 6-3) and Kentucky's lethal injection protocol (Baze v. Rees, 7-2). Both cases, Patricia says, had weak factual records and narrow rulings that helped the majority win votes from the liberal.


As for the Second Amendment showcase, D.C. v. Heller, Patricia was taken aback by the fact that the Court didn't discuss D.C.'s unique status as a Federal district—making the language about militias being "necessary to the security of a free State" arguably inapplicable. We'd never even thought of that, but that may be why we don't argue these things. Akin Gump and O'Melveny represented the District in Heller, though Patricia wasn't on the case; she was busy preparing for U.S. v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co., which dealt with the Constitution's Export Tax Clause ("nearly as unexplored as the Second Amendment," she quips). Sure it was a 9-0 decision against her client, but Patricia, that just means you never had a chance!


And yesterday we caught another Supreme Court maven, Mayer Brown's Andy Pincus. Assistant to the Solicitor General '84-'88, he's filed more than 100 briefs there. Though wary of predictions, Andy tells us that based on the Court's focus on issues related to standing (as in Crawford, the voter ID case), he thinks it may continue to explore the "case or controversy" requirement when things start back up in October. He'll be a frequent visitor: The Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, which he co-directs, has already had success with four cert petitions for cases next session.


A big winner of the term among law firms was WilmerHale, which took home three victories in pro bono cases at the Court, including Boumediene, the Guantanamo Bay detainee decision. We met up with Danielle Spinelli, who took up the right-to-counsel case of Rothgery v. Gillespie County and ended up with an 8-1 win penned by Justice Thomas. Danielle clerked for Justice Breyer so she's no stranger to the Court, but Rothgery was her first argument and offered at least one surprise. "You don't realize how close the lawyers stand to the Justices until you're arguing," she admits. Her colleague Seth Waxman argued Boumediene and their NY office's Chris Meade handled Dada v. Mukasey, an immigration case involving rights for removable aliens.

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