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A Washington, D.C. solo practitioner with extensive experience before the Supreme Court will argue in defense of the city of Chicago’s strict handgun ordinance in a closely watched Second Amendment case next month. James Feldman, who argued 45 times before the high court as an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, got the nod to argue in what is widely viewed as an uphill battle for gun control advocates. The case is McDonald v. City of Chicago. At issue in the case is whether the individual right to bear arms, as articulated in the D.C. v. Heller decision of 2008, applies against local restrictions on firearms. The Heller case, because it involved a gun ban in the District of Columbia — the federal enclave — did not incorporate or extend the right to impinge on state and local laws. The high court recently ruled on the lineup of lawyers on the pro-gun rights side of the case. Alan Gura of Gura & Possessky in Washington and Virginia, who won the Heller case on behalf of gun rights advocates, will, against his wishes, share the lectern with former Solicitor General Paul Clement, now with King & Spalding, who will argue for the National Rifle Association. The United States won’t be arguing, though both sides met with lawyers in the solicitor general’s office to discuss the possibility. Unlike the Heller case, where the solicitor general participated in part to defend federal firearms laws, the federal government decided to sit this case out. As a result, the entire half hour given to defending Chicago’s strict handgun ordinance will be taken by Feldman. The former clerk to the late justice William Brennan Jr. served in the solicitor general’s office from 1989 to 2006. Unlike many of his colleagues who have headed off to big law firms, the unassuming Feldman went solo, in part so he could control his caseload. He is also teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. How did Feldman get the assignment? Feldman said he’d done work for the city before, and when Benna Solomon, deputy corporation counsel for the city, had a schedule conflict keeping her from arguing, she turned to him. That modest explanation checks out with Solomon, who said that on the same day the Supreme Court granted review in the gun case, it also agreed to hear Lewis v. City of Chicago, a Title VII case she will argue. The Lewis case is set for Feb. 22 and McDonald is scheduled for March 2. Solomon said she did not want to argue both in such rapid succession. “Jim is a perfect person for us,” said Solomon, herself a Supreme Court veteran and former Byron White clerk. “We very, very rarely go outside” for counsel, she said, but Feldman, with his long experience and no client conflicts, was the obvious choice. “It is a tough case,” Solomon acknowledged. Irv Gornstein, a longtime friend of Feldman from the solicitor general’s office, now of counsel at O’Melveny & Myers, agreed with Solomon’s assessment of Feldman. “The Court knows him and trusts him,” said Gornstein, who was on the pro-gun-regulation team in the Heller case in 2007. “He brings a tremendous amount of credibility to the Court.” Gornstein calls Feldman’s argument style “easy on the ears,” and can understand why people call him unassuming. “But get him in a meeting or a moot court,” said Gornstein, “and no one would call him unassuming. He is very take-charge … and very penetrating in his moot court questions.” Another veteran of the solicitor general’s office, Deanne Maynard of Morrison & Foerster, echoed Gornstein’s comments. “Jim is super-smart and an experienced oral advocate.,” she said. “Chicago is lucky to have him on its side.” Feldman is the son of the late Myer Feldman, a prominent Washington lawyer and businessman who was once a top aide to President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

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