In the U.S. Supreme Court, the advocate makes his or her best arguments along with the best supporting evidence available. And the advocate can’t do much better than finding both via a sitting justice.
That’s exactly what Lisa Blatt, head of Arnold & Porter’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, found as she wrote her brief in Marx v. General Revenue Corp. She represents General Revenue in a statutory interpretation case asking whether a defendant who prevails in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act suit may be awarded costs when the plaintiff did not bring suit in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment.
Blatt may be the first Supreme Court advocate to cite to “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” the newest book by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, to boost her argument that the statute does permit costs awards to prevailing defendants.
“The case is about statutory construction so the cite to the book was a natural fit,” said Blatt, adding with a note of humor, “And the book, obviously written by authors with relevant experience, had just come out when we were writing our brief.”
For good measure, she cites the book, not once, but twice, saying “the specific-trumps-the-general canon ordinarily applies when two statutes conflict,” and quoting the authors’ conclusion that “[s]ometimes drafters do repeat themselves and do include words that add nothing of substance, either out of a flawed sense of style or to engage in the ill-conceived but lamentably common belt-and-suspenders approach.”
The case is scheduled for argument Nov. 7 when the justice undoubtedly will have something to say.
Marcia Coyle can be contacted at email@example.com.