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    May 29, 2008  

Supreme Court
YouTube Star


We always knew Tom Goldstein, Akin Gump’s DC litigation head and firm-wide Supreme Court practice co-head, as the man behind SCOTUSblog, the blog of record on High Court affairs. But not until we were goofing off at work the other day did we realize he’s also been making comic YouTube videos. His second attempt, pimping his Supreme Court services to the masses in Colbert Report style, cracked us up so much we had to justify our repeated viewings by scheduling an interview. 


The “Hire Me For Your Supreme Court Case” video has drawn 7,000 views since being posted two weeks ago, and there’s already a third in the works. Filmed by Tom’s assistant Jason Harrow in one grueling hour, it’s still in post production. But we like the concept already: bits of dialogue from Justices Scalia and Breyer spliced “to make them sound ridiculous,” Tom says. He tells us the videos and SCOTUSblog, which has a staff of four and costs him $50,000/year out of his own pocket, are about creating an identity. While none of the Web ventures have generated any business, Tom says they’re a great recruiting tool for law school students who contribute to the 3.5 million yearly hits on his blog. We listened close when Tom told us the key to any effective Web endeavor: writing daily, he says, and having a defining characteristic, like humor. Oh, snap—we’re all over those!   


Tom’s plan to stand out seems to be working. Sony Pictures Television bought the rights to his life story last year, and a former writer from “The Practice” is working on a drama series based on him. No producer has signed on yet, and the Writer’s Strike held things up, so for now he’ll have to keep his day job arguing Supreme Court cases. (Enter violins.) Tom has argued a total of 18 cases before the Supremes, including Virginia v. Moore this term. The question: does a state rule declaring that violations of state arrest laws automatically trigger Fourth Amendment remedies violate the Constitution? Tom argued in the negative but lost the unanimous decision.  


To keep business churning, Tom is filing about 15 petitions for cert. per term these days. When starting his practice ten years ago, he sought potential cases through LexisNexis, searching for “circuit splits.” He still uses the Web, of course, but now clients are seeking out his services.           

John Ford, a former lawyer, is Bisnow's Managing Editor. Got a story tip? Pass it on to john@bisnow.com.

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