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Thomas C. Goldstein won the age-discrimination Supreme Court case Smith v. City of Jackson earlier this year, following a quixotic strategy that landed him in the high court 14 times. Pursuing his unusual dream to argue cases in front of this court only, Goldstein founded what he calls the “nation’s only Supreme Court litigation boutique. “A good year in Supreme Court lasts an hour and a half total. It’s a little bit loopy that all of this effort goes into an hour and half,” he said. “You can’t hope for a better year.” Goldstein of Goldstein & Howe in Washington studied law at American University Washington College of Law in the early 1990s. During law school, Goldstein worked as an intern for National Public Radio’s Supreme Court reporter, Nina Totenberg. While compiling statistics about the court’s rulings, he developed an obsession with the high court. After a clerkship with Judge Patricia Wald in the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, Goldstein landed in the appellate section in the Washington office of Jones Day in 1996. Still, the Supreme Court fascinated him, and Goldstein moved to a cozier practice at the Washington office of Boies & Schiller (now Boies, Schiller & Flexner). Then a six-person firm, Goldstein received plenty of courtroom work and it allowed him to file Supreme Court petitions in his free time. In 1999, two of Goldstein’s petitions were accepted by the high court. The first was Cunningham v. Hamilton County, Ohio, where Goldstein helped an Ohio attorney fight a judge’s sanction that disqualified her from a case. “The justices were incredibly nice and patient,” said Goldstein, “but we got creamed, nine to nothing.” Not to be deterred, he left Boies & Schiller and opened an office out of his bedroom, looking for split-decision cases that he could carry to the Supreme Court. In 2000, Goldstein’s fledgling practice received a boost when he helped organize Al Gore’s recount bid in Bush v. Gore, working beside Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe in the Supreme Court. The court ruled, 5-4, against a recount of votes in Florida, effectively ending the contested election. Even though his side lost, Goldstein had settled into a quiet business model, serving mainly as an adviser, researcher and manager to firms that take cases through to the Supreme Court. “We’re generally hired to add value to a case,” he said. “It’s good not to be threatening to other firms.” As the firm grew, his wife, Amy Howe, joined the practice. Their first baby was born, and the family firm now encompasses the entire third floor of his house. “It makes the long hours easier when you can go down and hang out with the baby,” Goldstein said. Goldstein & Howe logs around 1,100 hours of pro bono work a year, jockeying for position in the increasingly competitive world of Supreme Court litigation. Goldstein also guides a crop of aspiring lawyers through the twisting court petition process in a year-long Stanford Law School clinic. According to Goldstein, four petitions that the students filed this year were accepted, despite the fact that only 1% of all Supreme Court petitions are successful. He also argued for the respondents in FCC v. Brand X Internet Services in March. The case arose when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided that cable Internet access companies provide an “information service,” and are not subject to the same regulations that govern “telecommunications services” that telephone companies provide. Goldstein hopes to reverse that FCC ruling, allowing more Internet service providers to participate in the lucrative cable Internet industry and making this Internet frontier more competitive.

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