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It was Nov. 26, 2002, and Roy Englert Jr. had just been asked to argue a case in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a group of anti-abortion protesters. The problem: Englert knew very little about the case, which one of his partners had been handling. And the argument was set for Dec. 4, just eight days away. But the clients wanted Englert, a partner at Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck & Untereiner, to go before the justices. “When our clients learned that [then-Solicitor General] Ted Olson was arguing on the other side, they got nervous about the disparity in experience,” Englert recalls. His partner had only one high court argument under his belt, while, Englert says, “it was my 13th argument, and I’d argued against Ted before.” So Englert dropped everything and spent all his time preparing the argument — straight through the Thanksgiving weekend. It helped, he says, that he had kept his work schedule free because of the holiday. The deadline pressure worked well for Englert. The result was an 8-1 win for his clients — Joseph Scheidler and other antiabortion activists — in Scheidler v. NOW Inc. The Feb. 26, 2003, ruling by the Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and held that although the protesters interfered with the business of abortion clinics, they did not commit extortion under the federal Hobbs Act since they did not obtain property from the clinics or from the women seeking abortions. The case was viewed as a win for protesters of all sorts, shielding political protest from one line of challenge. “Roy was utterly superb,” says Thomas Brejcha, chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based anti-abortion group that Englert represented. “He mastered the material in short order in what was a very difficult case.” Brejcha says Englert “uttered a tautology [at oral argument] that actually made a lot of sense in context. He said, ‘Property is property.’ The lower court had said that interference with someone’s rights was a taking of property.” That theme — that a Hobbs Act violation occurs only if actual property is taken — was picked up by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in his majority opinion. Englert, 45, started the Supreme Court and appellate boutique in May 2001 with other lawyers who had left what was then Mayer, Brown & Platt. The Robbins, Russell firm now has 10 lawyers. Englert, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was a court law clerk at the D.C. Circuit in 1981-82. He spent three years at the solicitor general’s office and 12 years at Mayer, Brown before getting involved in forming his current firm. In 1999, while still at Mayer, Brown, Englert successfully argued Sutton v. United Air Lines Inc., a landmark case under the Americans With Disabilities Act. In that case, the Court ruled 7-2 that a disability under the ADA should be viewed in light of corrective measures that can be taken to relieve it. The justices therefore rejected a claim by twin sisters that United had violated the ADA when it declined to hire them as pilots since their uncorrected vision was poor. Englert says conversation is the key to appellate success. “An appellate advocate must be able to engage in good dialogue with the judges,” he says. “One of the most common failings occurs when advocates don’t want to talk about what the judges want to talk about.”

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