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WASHINGTON — Sometimes it seems that Paul Clement is everywhere at once. In a three-week span late last year, Clement appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in a pivotal age discrimination case; before the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York defending the detention of enemy combatant Jose Padilla; and before the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., in the case of alleged 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. In the Moussaoui case, while defense attorneys split the complicated two-part argument between them, the 37-year-old Clement handled both halves. Even Moussaoui’s lead counsel, Federal Public Defender Frank Dunham Jr., says he was impressed. “I felt he did an excellent job,” Dunham says. “He can make the unreasonable sound reasonable.” As principal deputy to Solicitor General Theodore Olson for the past three years, Clement has made 14 Supreme Court arguments, prevailing so far in all but three cases. On Tuesday, Clement argued his first case of 2004, supporting the right of citizens to sue states for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act in Tennessee v. Lane. Clement, a former law firm partner and part-time law professor, had never appeared before the Supreme Court when he was tapped for the No. 2 slot in the SG’s office. “There is no feeling in the world like being able to represent the United States before the Supreme Court,” Clement says. “It’s a privilege and an honor for everyone in this office.” In addition to Supreme Court advocacy, Clement has been tasked with shepherding high-stakes terrorism cases, including those of enemy combatants Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, through the lower courts. (Hamdi’s case was accepted by the Supreme Court on Jan. 9.) The sensitive assignment keeps Clement on the run and is testimony to his stature within the Bush administration. “Paul Clement is one of the brightest legal minds in the country,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement. “Paul’s work in defense of the legal tools and authority needed to protect America has been a necessary and important element of our counterterrorism mission.” If Olson steps down at the end of the Supreme Court term — as some insiders expect — Clement is the likely candidate for solicitor general. His name has also been floated as a potential nominee to the D.C. Circuit. But Clement’s record, particularly his defense of the Bush administration’s controversial policies in the war on terrorism, has already made him a lightning rod. “There’s no question that [Clement's] activities in the administration, as well as those before, would raise red flags about a nomination,” says Elliot Mincberg, legal director for the liberal People for the American Way. CONSERVATIVE CREDENTIALS Clement, who grew up in suburban Milwaukee, has a perfectly appointed conservative resume. The youngest child of an accountant father and a stay-at-home mother, Clement attended Georgetown University, where he studied international economics and cut his political teeth with two internships, first for then-Sen. Bob Kasten, R-Wis., and then in the Ronald Reagan White House. After graduating, Clement deferred law school, while earning a masters degree in economics from Cambridge University. In 1989, he began at Harvard Law School, where he served as Supreme Court editor for the Harvard Law Review. Clement went on to prestigious clerkships for GOP appointees Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In 1994, he accepted a job in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis, working in the high-powered appellate group led by one-time D.C. Circuit Judge and Solicitor General Kenneth Starr. Clement called to take the job on the same day Starr signed on to serve as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. The senior partner’s absence worked out well for Clement, giving him the opportunity to play larger roles in cases and even argue two appeals as a young associate. After two and a half years at the firm, however, Clement found himself growing antsy. With Democrats in the White House, he took a job with Ashcroft, then a Republican senator from Missouri. Accepting a staff position on the Hill was an unconventional career move for an appellate practitioner, but ultimately sharpened Clement’s focus on pure litigation. “I’m interested in policy issues, but when push comes to shove, my real love is the litigation and legal issues,” he says. “One of the great things about working on the Hill is that it allowed me to sort that out.” Clement left Ashcroft’s office prior to the senator’s aggressive and controversial opposition to the nomination of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White to the federal bench. Jon Liebowitz, whose tenure as chief counsel to Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., overlapped with Clement’s time on the Hill, says Clement was highly regarded and easy to work with. “Paul was someone to go to for a thoughtful opinion on a constitutional issue” says Liebowitz, now legislative counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America. “He understood if you wanted to get stuff done, you needed to cross the aisle.” In 1999, Clement joined the D.C. office of Atlanta’s King & Spalding as a partner, where he was charged with starting an appellate practice. During his brief return to private practice, Clement collaborated with the conservative American Center for Law & Justice on two amicus briefs in Bush v. Gore, supporting George W. Bush on behalf of Republican voters. Today Clement lives in Alexandria, Va., with wife Alexandra and their three sons: 5-year-old Thomas, 3-year-old Theo and 10-month-old Paul Gregory, who goes by P.G. Clement was at the hospital following the birth of his second son when he learned that Bush had selected Ashcroft for attorney general. He joined a tightknit group of aides working on Ashcroft’s contentious confirmation and laying plans for the transition. Initially, Ashcroft wanted to place Clement at the helm of the Justice Department’s influential Office of Legal Counsel, but the White House had its own candidate and refused to accept Clement for the post. Both Ashcroft and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales backed Clement for the No. 2 slot in the SG’s office. Last year, Clement applied for a vacant seat on the Seventh Circuit. Ultimately, the nomination went to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes, but Clement’s judicial aspirations have not gone unnoticed. “This is not a person we want on the federal bench,” says Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, which has aggressively opposed many of Bush’s judicial nominees. “There is no indication in this guy’s record that he’s an independent thinker or has any sense of balance,” Aron adds, citing his work for Ashcroft’s Senate staff, his affiliation with Starr, and his legal work in Bush v. Gore. PAUL WHO? Back in February 2001, when Clement was tapped for the No. 2 slot in the Office of the Solicitor General, he was a relative unknown. “I had never heard of Paul Clement before he became principal deputy. Now, I’m an admirer,” says Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering partner Seth Waxman, who served as solicitor general under President Bill Clinton. Even Olson was only marginally familiar with Clement. Before signing off on Clement’s selection by White House officials, Olson first called Clement’s former bosses — Silberman, Scalia and Starr. “I was looking for an extremely good lawyer, a hard worker, someone selflessly committed to the heavy-duty work we do here. Also, someone who was likable. Someone I would feel comfortable sending into meetings on my behalf,” Olson says. “Paul could not have come more highly recommended.” He adds: “He’s got high intelligence and a high legal IQ. He has great instincts for what arguments will work.” Olson, a man not known for effusive praise, says he “thanks his lucky stars” that Clement became his deputy. Nevertheless, given his ties to Ashcroft, there were those who wondered whether he would amount to more than a political operative. But Waxman’s principal deputy, Barbara Underwood, who ran the SG’s office during Clement’s first four months, says he “integrated very easily into the office.” “When anybody new comes in, they need to prove themselves. I think he very quickly did,” says Underwood, now an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. “He was confident in his judgment but not at all arrogant.” Clement is known for being quick on his feet and does not use any notes during oral arguments. “If you ask him a question he has an answer,” says Time Warner European General Counsel Adam Ciongoli, who served as counselor to Ashcroft from 2001 to 2003. “He composes the right answer as the question is being asked, and it comes out flawlessly. It comes out unrehearsed, like he’s having a normal conversation.” But while Clement’s delivery may be low-key, his preparation is just the opposite. Those who have worked with him praise his ability to quickly master complex cases. “He just buries himself in the material,” says Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Philbin, a longtime friend of Clement’s. “It’s one of those things no one else can do for you.” One of Clement’s more daunting challenges came as he prepped for arguments in last year’s campaign finance case. The legislation was sprawling, and the lower-court ruling was more than 1,600 pages long. Olson handled the morning session, defending McCain-Feingold’s regulation of soft money. Clement was assigned the afternoon session, dealing with the law’s issue ad provisions — and everything else. “The scope of the case was just unbelievable,” Clement says. “On the one hand, I knew 90 percent of the questioning was going to focus on issue ads because that was the big-ticket item. But I also knew I was likely to get a handful of questions about the other 10 provisions and that there was no rational way of predicting which ones.” He adds: “Somebody in this office analogized it to defending the tax code.” On Dec. 10, the Supreme Court upheld the major provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. “People came out of Paul’s campaign finance argument saying it was the best argument they’d ever seen,” says Thomas Goldstein of D.C.’s Goldstein & Howe, who had no involvement in the case. “Most people would put [Clement] on their top five list of advocates alongside people who have been doing this forever.” Indeed, in D.C.’s clubby Supreme Court Bar, where reputations are built over a lifetime, Clement seems to have achieved remarkably early success. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” says O’Melveny & Myers partner Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general from 1996 to 1997. “Whenever I think of an argument from Paul, the one word that springs to mind is clarity,” Dellinger adds. “He has an extremely precise and clear intellect. Paul is never murky in thought or expression.” Aside from Olson, Clement is the only non-career attorney in the solicitor general’s 19-lawyer office. The post for a political deputy was created in the early 1980s, in part to handle cases with an ideological edge. Clement’s unique role, as a top appellate litigator and trusted political aide, made him the natural candidate to assume responsibility for the DOJ’s terror docket, once it was consolidated in the solicitor general’s office. Publicly, Clement has forcefully argued that the president has broad power in wartime to imprison those he deems enemies, indefinitely and without access to legal counsel. Clement’s allies suggest that behind closed doors he may counsel a more moderate stance. Georgetown University law professor Viet Dinh, former assistant AG for legal policy, says Clement’s job is to litigate, not to make policy decisions. According to Dinh, Clement has articulated positions in the enemy combatant cases at the behest of his clients — the Defense Department and the president. “Paul and Ted are significant policy players and their voices carry a great deal of weight,” Dinh says. “At the end of the day, decisions are made by the client agency.” Those who have confronted Clement in the courtroom are not so sure. “He couldn’t give the arguments he gives, if he didn’t believe it,” says Dunham, the public defender in Alexandria, Va., and lead counsel to Moussaoui and Hamdi. Clement will not discuss whether his own views diverge from the positions he sometimes takes in court, saying it’s “not that important.” “If you’ve got a statute to defend, it doesn’t much matter how you would have voted on the statute if you were a congressman. You’re not,” Clement says. “Your job is to marshal the best argument for the defense of the statute or the policy that gets the job done.” Clement adds: “That’s the way I approach all the cases.” Vanessa Blum is a reporter for Legal Times , a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C.

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