After a year clerking for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Philip Alito, son of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr., will begin as an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher this fall.
“Phil Alito is a smart, talented and hard-working young lawyer with impressive credentials," Thomas Dupree Jr., hiring partner at Gibson Dunn's Washington D.C. office, said in a statement. "We are delighted that he has chosen to begin his career with Gibson Dunn and look forward to welcoming him this fall.”
The hire will bring the young Alito into a firm that has one of the most active Supreme Court practices anywhere. The firm website states that Gibson lawyers have argued more than 100 cases at the high court, and boasts a 30 percent success rate in getting the justices to grant review of its petitions in the last five years—compared to a one percent grant rate for all incoming cert petitions.
Among the top cases argued by Gibson lawyers, most notably longtime appellate co-chair Theodore Olson: the election-deciding Bush v. Gore in 2000, the class-action case Wal-Mart v. Dukes, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on campaign finance, and last term's same-sex marriage case Hollingsworth v. Perry.
Alito will also find a kindred spirit in another son of a justice at the firm: Eugene Scalia, son of Justice Antonin Scalia, and a longtime Gibson litigation partner in Washington.
Philip Alito's undergraduate degree is from the University of Virginia, and his law degree is from Duke University School of Law. He was a summer associate at Gibson in 2011.
Because of the firm's active Supreme Court practice, the hire will raise some ethical issues for Justice Alito, at least when and if Philip Alito becomes a partner.
When The National Law Journal first reported in May that Philip Alito was clerking for D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh and might then go into private practice, the court issued a statement referring to a nearly 20-year-old policy statement by justices with close relatives who are lawyers. Under that policy, justices would not ordinarily recuse in cases brought by their relatives' firms, unless the relative is lead counsel—unlikely for an associate—or the outcome of the case would affect the relative's partnership share of the firm's income.
"Justice Alito does subscribe to the policy that the Court adopted some time ago (and has followed it with respect to his sister)," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in May. "The policy would apply to Philip if and when he is in practice." Justice Alito's sister Rosemary, a prominent employment lawyer, is partner and chair of the labor and employment practice at K&L Gates.
The justices' 1993 policy also stated that they would even participate in cases brought by firms in which their relatives were partners—as long as the firm assured the court that the relative's income would never be affected by its Supreme Court work.
In the case of Eugene Scalia, responding to that feature of the policy, Gibson wrote a letter to the court in 2003 stating, "Until further notice, income from the firm's Supreme Court litigation will be excluded from Eugene Scalia's earnings on a permanent basis." The firm could send a similar letter regarding Alito if he becomes partner.
Supreme Court history includes examples of father-son relationships affecting legal careers. In 1967, Justice Tom Clark resigned after his son Ramsey became U.S. attorney general. On the other hand, in 1930, U.S. Solicitor General Charles Evans Hughes Jr. resigned when his father was nominated as chief justice.
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