In the pantheon of lawyers who have been blindsided by their clients, it will be hard to top what happened to Paul Clement on April 28, 2004.
Clement, then deputy solicitor general, was arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that Congress, in its post-9/11 authorization of military force, had also in effect given the green light to the military detention of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested on American soil. Testing the limits of Clement’s argument, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked whether the same congressional resolution would authorize “mild torture” of detainees. “Some systems do that to get information,” she said. Clement replied sharply: “Well, our executive doesn’t.”
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