In late fall 2012, Joseph Palmore, then an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, stood at the lectern in the U.S. Supreme Court fully prepared to argue about appropriate remedies in an employee-retirement dispute not on many radars as a must-watch case. He neither expected nor prepared for an annoyed Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.

In a footnote in its amicus brief in the case, US Airways v. McCutchen, the Solicitor General’s Office noted that “upon further reflection,” the government’s position had changed on the issue in the case. Now, the Labor Department secretary had a different view.

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