Thank you for reading The Marble Palace Blog, which I hope will inform and surprise you about the Supreme Court of the United States. My name is Tony Mauro. I’ve covered the Supreme Court since 1979 and for ALM since 2000. I semiretired in 2019, but I am still fascinated by the high court. I’ll welcome any tips or suggestions for topics to write about. You can reach me at [email protected].
In my blog item last week, I listed the names of six current Supreme Court justices who have lawyers in their family. But an astute reader told me I neglected to mention another justice who fits that category.
That seventh justice is Ketanji Brown Jackson, and her brother-in-law William Jackson—her husband Patrick’s twin brother—is a partner at Goodwin Procter, a law firm that practices in appellate and Supreme Court matters, among others.
That family tree creates a close enough relationship so that when Ketanji Brown Jackson takes office, Goodwin Procter will be following a longstanding Supreme Court recusal policy for what to do when a justice has a lawyer in the family who could conceivably benefit financially from a Supreme Court proceeding.
William Jay, who leads Goodwin’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, told me this week that the firm will abide by the 1993 recusal policy by assuring the court that Goodwin income from Supreme Court litigation will be “permanently withheld” from William Jackson’s partnership shares. Jackson is a partner in the firm’s complex litigation and dispute resolution practice and is a member of the firm’s life sciences disputes group.
“We are preparing when Justice Jackson is sworn in, if not before, to send the court the written assurance used by other law firms that had other justices’ relatives as partners in the past,” Jay said.
One such law firm is Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which made an arrangement for partner Eugene Scalia, son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. K&L Gates did the same for Rosemary Alito, the sister of Justice Samuel Alito Jr., who works at the firm.
The arrangement was formulated after the Supreme Court’s 1993 statement, led by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and joined by seven other justices with family members as lawyers. The statement said flatly, “We shall recuse ourselves from all cases in which appearances on behalf of parties are made by firms in which our relatives are partners, unless we have received from the firm written assurance that income from Supreme Court litigation is, on a permanent basis, excluded from our relatives’ partnership shares.”
They added, “We shall recuse ourselves whenever, to our knowledge, a relative has been lead counsel below.”
But more remote relationships between justices and lawyers would not cause recusal, the 1993 statement asserted. “We think that a relative’s partnership in the firm appearing before us, or his or her previous work as a lawyer on a case that later comes before us, does not automatically trigger these provisions,” the justices agreed. They pointed to a federal law about judicial conduct that says family members need not recuse in a case if their connection is jus “membership in the representing firm.”
Jay concluded, “We are taking the steps necessary to ensure that the mere fact that William is a partner at our law firm doesn’t mean that Goodwin participating in a case bounces a justice out of the case if (William Jackson) doesn’t have anything to do with the case.”