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Clement Resigns as Solicitor GeneralSolicitor General Paul Clement, who led the courtroom defense of the Bush administration's anti-terror legal policies, announced Wednesday he is leaving his job June 2. Clement argued 49 cases before the Supreme Court in the last seven years and was viewed as probably the most valued "catch" from the Bush Justice Department, with law firm managing partners guessing he could attract a $2 million or $3 million package. Details about his next step were not immediately forthcoming from Clement.
Legal Times2008-05-15 12:00:00 AM
Solicitor General Paul Clement, who led the courtroom defense of the Bush administration's anti-terror legal policies -- and emerged unscathed -- announced Wednesday he is leaving his job June 2.
Clement argued 49 cases before the Supreme Court in the last seven years and was viewed by Washington law firms as probably the most valued "catch" from the Bush Justice Department, with some managing partners guessing he could easily attract a $2 million or $3 million package.
But details about his next step were not forthcoming from Clement. A Justice Department spokesman said Clement had "no specific plans" and looked forward to spending the summer with his family.
One close friend who asked not to be named quoted Clement as saying that for ethical reasons he did not want to discuss job possibilities with firms until after he left government.
No successor has been named, though principal deputy solicitor general Gregory Garre is viewed as likely to close out the Bush administration in an acting position.
In a statement, Attorney General Michael Mukasey called Clement "one of the nation's finest appellate lawyers. ... I will miss not only Paul's superb advocacy on behalf of the United States, but also his wise counsel and keen legal analysis.
"Clement's seven-year stint in the office is the longest by an individual who served as solicitor general since 1885," according to the department.
The friend of Clement said he had left voluntarily. "He felt he had done everything he could do there over seven years. And he has three young boys he would like to spend more time with."
Clement's predecessor, Theodore Olson, said Wednesday that "Paul is a brilliant, brilliant lawyer with tremendous energy in every conceivable area."
Clement won high praise for his crisp, direct oral argument style, delivered without reference to notes.
"I am so glad he is solicitor general because he makes my job easier," Justice Antonin Scalia said in a 2006 tribute to Clement at Georgetown University Law Center. Scalia also said Clement was the "sentimental favorite" of justices to replace Olson in 2005.
Clement had clerked for Scalia, but it was still high praise for someone who had never argued before the Supreme Court when he joined the solicitor general's office as Olson's deputy. Clement had ties to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and worked in King & Spalding's D.C. office.
Unlike other Justice Department lawyers, Clement was left relatively untarnished by his participation in the legal defense of Bush administration anti-terrorism policies, in lower courts as well as the Supreme Court. Though he never expressed any differences with the administration, it was notable that on the eve of one Supreme Court oral argument, detainee Jose Padilla was allowed to see his lawyer. New appeals procedures were announced just before another Guantanamo case went before the Court.
On April 28, 2004, during argument in Rumsfeld v. Padilla, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked Clement whether the administration was authorized to use torture in questioning detainees. "Well, our executive doesn't," was Clement's terse response.
Eight hours later CBS began airing the infamous Abu Ghraib prison photos, turning Clement's assertion on its head. But his relationship with the Court, which relies heavily on his credibility with the justices, seemed undamaged. In a 2006 interview with The American Lawyer, Clement said that moment during oral argument was "the worst thing that can happen to you in a case."