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If it seemed that Supreme Court justices gave Carter Phillips an unusually hard time during oral argument April 17, they may have had a reason: It was Phillips’ 50th argument before the high court, and they probably did not want the rare achievement to go to his head. The next day, Phillips’ firm, Sidley Austin, threw a party at the Metropolitan Club to mark the occasion, and it drew most of his friends and rivals in the tight-knit Supreme Court bar. The special guest was Justice Samuel Alito Jr., whose friendship with Phillips, 52, dates back to 1980, when they were both interviewed for a job on the same day by then-Solicitor General Wade McCree. Phillips argued nine cases in the SG’s office and 41 for Sidley, gaining a reputation for calmness and candor that brings results. Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson was on hand at the reception, remarking that with “only” 43 Supreme Court arguments under his belt, “I’ll have to work a lot longer to catch up.” Former SG Seth Waxman, not far behind Phillips at 47 arguments, cheered him on. “I genuinely look forward to continuing to argue both alongside and against Carter for many years to come!” But Phillips had little time to savor the milestone. He left the next day to meet with clients in Beijing, all the while preparing for argument 51 — his sixth this term — on April 26.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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