Partner, Bancroft PLLC
Assignment: Defending DOMA
Previous arguments: 65
The connection: When the Obama administration decided in February 2011 to stop defending DOMA, the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group decided to pick up the slack and hire the best. Clement, often cited as the top U.S. Supreme Court advocate of his generation, signed on for a $500,000 fee, later upped to $1.5 million. Famed for his confident, no-notes presentation, Clement can parry almost every sling and arrow headed his way—even when delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom he once clerked. Clement’s brother Bret, an Indianapolis lawyer, once gave him a grudging compliment for his argument style: "He’s obviously fairly bright. I don’t think I could do that, and I’m not exactly a dummy."
Partner, Cooper and Kirk
Assignment: Defending Proposition 8
Previous Arguments: 6
The connection: At early stages of the Prop. 8 litigation, Andrew Pugno of ProtectMarriage.com looked for top litigators "with reputations and statures in the legal community similar to that of Ted Olson," he said in 2009. Cooper, a former clerk to Justice William Rehnquist who succeeded Olson as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1985, was a natural choice. And Cooper was available; unlike big firms that might have feared taking on the case, Cooper & Kirk travels light, with only nine lawyers listed on its website. Cooper’s courtly formality and Alabama drawl were last heard at the court in 1999.
Harvard Law School professor
Assignment: Opposing court jurisdiction in DOMA case and opposing standing for supporters of DOMA
Previous arguments: 0
The connection: When the court looks for lawyers to argue positions that other parties won’t take on, it usually taps recent former clerks. But to handle the tricky jurisdictional and standing issued in Windsor, the court asked a seasoned academic who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall in the 1970s. Formerly at Georgetown University Law Center, Jackson went to Harvard Law in 2011. "It will be Vicki Jackson’s first oral argument before the court, but she is hardly new to the court," said long-time colleague Richard Lazarus. "She is well known by the justices for her legal scholarship, including on the very federal jurisdictional issues that the court asked her to brief and argue."
Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Assignment: Representing Edith Windsor in challenge to DOMA
Previous arguments: 0
The connection: Because of DOMA, Edith Windsor could not be considered a surviving spouse when her long-time partner Thea Speyer died in 2009, costing her thousands in estate taxes. She decided to challenge the law in court, and after being spurned by several gay rights groups, she contacted Kaplan – a tough civil and white-collar crime litigator who had argued for same-sex marriage in New York’s highest court. In the years since, Kaplan said, "Edie has become a member of my family and is always invited to my house for holidays, family functions, etc. I worry not only about her legal case, but about all the other aspects of her life as well, the way that I do about my own parents."
Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Assignment: Challenging Proposition 8
Previous arguments: 58
The connection: When actor Rob Reiner first asked him to lead the legal fight against Proposition 8, Olson agreed almost immediately. "I really did not need to give it a great deal of thought," Olson told SuperLawyers. "I thought that discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation is a tragic harm done to our country and the citizens of our country." The fact that the former solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration is arguing for same-sex marriage is an instant symbol for the court of how attitudes have changed. His no-nonsense argument style, breaking down issues in simple terms, has worked for conservative and business causes – and could work for California gay couples too.
Deputy U.S. Solicitor General
Assignment: Supporting court jurisdiction in DOMA case
Previous arguments: 23
The connection: With his boss Don Verrilli arguing on the merits in both cases, it was natural that he would pick his principal deputy to argue the jurisdictional issues in Windsor. "Sri is an India-born, Kansas-raised high school basketball star whose understated conversational manner seems to be greatly respected by the justices," said Srinivasan’s former O’Melveny & Myers colleague Walter Dellinger, who turned over leadership of the firm’s appellate practice to Srinivasan just months before Verrilli recruited him for the deputy position. "He is one of the rare advocates who goes ‘bare podium’ and argues with no notes whatsoever. He is interrupted less often than most advocates. It seems the justices are always interested in what he has to say."
Donald Verrilli Jr.
Solicitor General of the United States
Assignment: Opposing Prop. 8 and DOMA
Previous arguments: 24
The connection: Verrilli knew when he became solicitor general in 2011 that he could be tasked with defending the Affordable Care Act and dealing with issues of affirmative action and same-sex marriage. "It’s all a little bit overwhelming," Verrilli confessed soon after he took the job. After some early stumbles, Verrilli has stepped up his game, adding more oomph to his argument style. When Verrilli was up for nomination in 2011, fellow high court advocates – including Clement, Olson and Srinivasan – joined in a letter to the Senate praising him. "He is a quick study, careful listener, and acute judge of legal arguments," they agreed, also describing him as a "masterful writer and oral advocate who knows the importance of clarity, candor, vigor, and responsiveness."