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WASHINGTON-When eBay Inc.’s deputy general counsel went searching for a skilled U.S. Supreme Court advocate who could persuade the justices to adopt its view of a major patent infringement challenge last term, one name consistently appeared on every recommendations list: Carter G. Phillips of Sidley Austin. “One of the things I knew would be important was: We wanted a Supreme Court advocate who was obviously easy to work with and who could effectively work and coordinate with our trial counsel, which was Skadden, Arps, [Slate, Meagher & Flom],” recalled eBay’s Jay Monahan. “I felt both were critical to our success. It was immediately clear to me Carter could do that and, in fact, did.” Phillips, managing partner of Sidley’s Washington office, won the eBay challenge in May, one of an extraordinary six arguments before the high court last term. Not all of his cases resulted in victories, but the number of cases, the range of law and the complexity of issues reflect his position as the go-to advocate for corporations seeking Supreme Court relief and his stature within the small, but highly skilled, Supreme Court bar. Besides the patent case, Phillips, who has a career total of 53 appearances before the justices, argued cases involving the Fair Labor Standards Act; the definition of “enterprise” in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; due process in tax sale notices; price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act; and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Phillips has already argued two cases in the current term and he has argued, or is preparing to argue, another eight in seven different circuits on subjects ranging from reinsurance to whether the homeless can sleep on a church’s steps. David Burman of Seattle-based Perkins Coie, for whom Phillips rode “shotgun” in a major high court challenge involving state Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts funds three years ago, said, “The thing that sticks out in my mind that separates Carter is there is no one who is a more down-to-earth and solidly based person and yet also an incredibly sophisticated lawyer.” Helping federal defenders Few people know that Phillips established Sidley’s Supreme Court assistance program for federal public defenders, said the program’s director, Jeffrey Green. The program has helped in roughly 115 cases over the last 12 years, said Green, by providing briefing support and argument preparation. As an extension of that program, Phillips recently also helped to launch a Supreme Court clinic at his alma mater, Northwestern University School of Law, in which students assist with the firm’s pro bono cases. Phillips said he reads all of the students’ work, which has to be graded, and he tries to do a couple of moot courts a year for the public defenders. He eschews moot courts for himself, preferring instead to have discussions about whatever high court case is on his plate. “The roundtable discussions we have are every bit as aggressive and intellectual as any moot court,” he explained. “I don’t feel the need to stand at a podium.” Green noted two traits of Phillips that set him apart: “He has a very strong virtue of humility in the finest sense of that word.” He added, “I think it allows him to stand in others’ shoes, the shoes of his opponent and the justices who ask questions. That trait affords him a real, clear look into what the court is interested in and what arguments his opponents will raise. “He also has the fastest analytical mind I’ve ever had the privilege to deal with. It’s quite scary.” As a former Supreme Court clerk, a former assistant to the solicitor general of the United States, and as a private practitioner with a wealth of experience, he has the total package for a corporate counsel with a high court case, said eBay’s Monahan. “You want somebody who gets the benefit of the doubt from the court and has enormous credibility there,” he added. “That’s Carter.”

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