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Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. on Monday named Jeffrey Minear, a 20-year veteran of the solicitor general’s office, to be his administrative assistant, a position akin to chief of staff. Minear, who has argued 56 cases before the high court, will succeed Sally Rider, who served as administrative assistant to Roberts’ predecessor, the late William Rehnquist. Rider is leaving in September to head a constitutional studies center named after Rehnquist at the University of Arizona College of Law. Roberts and Minear, 51, are longtime friends and former colleagues, serving together in the solicitor general’s office during the first Bush administration and, more recently, in the Microsoft antitrust appellate litigation, in 2001. Both worked on the Microsoft case, Minear representing the federal government, and Roberts, then in private practice, representing a coalition of states. “They developed a close working relationship and had great admiration for each other,” says David Frederick, who was also involved in the Microsoft case while at the solicitor general’s office. Frederick is now a partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, D.C. “Jeff is a brilliant advocate and a careful lawyer who will serve the chief justice with great distinction.” In a statement released Monday, Roberts said, “I have worked with (and against) Jeff over nearly two decades, and during that time I have seen firsthand his strong commitment to the Supreme Court as an institution and his respect for its role in our system of government.” As administrative assistant, Minear will help Roberts in the management of the Court as well as with the full range of the chief justice’s other duties, including his roles as chairman of the Judicial Conference and chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution. Minear will be paid $165,200 a year, the same as a federal district judge. A former chemical engineer, Minear earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1982 and worked in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division before joining the solicitor general’s office in 1985. Rehnquist’s administrative assistants, at least at the beginning of his tenure, were appointed for two years — a limit Rehnquist imposed to prevent his aides from becoming too entrenched. Roberts’ announcement mentioned no such limitation for Minear. The announcement was welcomed by veteran Supreme Court practitioners, who admire Minear’s meticulous case preparation and calm, direct style of oral advocacy — not unlike that of Roberts, himself a veteran high court advocate. Former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, now a partner in the D.C. office of WilmerHale, says: “Jeff is a terrific Supreme Court advocate and a wonderful human being. His deep knowledge of the Court and long professional relationship with the chief justice perfectly suit his new responsibilities.” Carter Phillips, managing partner of the D.C. office of Sidley Austin, also noted that Minear’s departure will leave a large void in the solicitor general’s office, especially in the handling of the Court’s original docket. Those cases, which come to the Court as an “original” matter, not on appeal from another court, involve disputes between states and between states and the federal government, usually over boundaries or water rights. One of Minear’s duties was to oversee these often complex disputes, which can last for years or even decades. He argued in the 1998 case New Jersey v. New York, a fight for jurisdiction over Ellis Island. “I’m sure the entire office is cringing about who will replace Jeff on original cases,” says Phillips. Adds Frederick, “Jeff probably knows more about original cases than anyone else alive.” Solicitor General Paul Clement alluded to Minear’s expertise in a statement released Monday. “I will miss his many contributions to the work of the office, including his administration of the United States’ involvement in original actions in the Supreme Court. At the same time, I cannot imagine anyone better suited for these important responsibilities to the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice.”
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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