U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz litigation partner George T. Conway III is being considered to serve as U.S. solicitor general in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, according to media reports.
Conway, reached after arriving in Washington on Saturday afternoon, declined to comment about his being a contender to lead the U.S. Justice Department’s top appellate team. Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, first reported that Conway was being eyed for U.S. solicitor general. A spokesperson for Trump’s transition was not immediately reached for comment.
Although Conway is connected to Trump’s transition team—his wife is Kellyanne Conway, who is set to become counselor to the president—his name was not one bandied about among the D.C. appellate bar in early December as a potential solicitor general pick. Those names included appellate veterans in Big Law.
Conway joined Wachtell in 1988 after a clerkship with Judge Ralph K. Winter Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A Wachtell partner since 1994, Conway has focused on corporate litigation, with an emphasis on securities, mergers and acquisitions, contracts and antitrust litigation.
A role as solicitor general would make him a regular before the U.S. Supreme Court, which would not be completely foreign to him. Conway’s argued one case in the high court—Morrison v. National Australia Bank. The justices in 2010, handing a win to Conway’s client, restricted the global reach of U.S. securities law. The court held that Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 does not apply extraterritorially to claims of so-called “foreign-cubed” plaintiffs—foreign investors who purchased securities of foreign issuers on foreign exchanges.
In 2015, Conway led Hewlett-Packard’s defense of a federal racketeering suit by Mexico’s state-owned oil-and-gas company, Petróleos Mexicanos, which had argued HP paid bribes to win government contracts. Conway and his team pointed to a Pemex internal investigation that found no wrongdoing. The company dropped the suit against HP.
In other matters, Conway represented Philip Morris in a defamation suit against ABC and the NFL in a trademark and antitrust matter against the Dallas Cowboys. He also has experience with Delaware corporate law, representing Rohm and Haas Co. and ADVO in two separate Delaware Court of Chancery cases that sought to enforce merger agreements.
The chief judge of the State of New York and the New York Unified Court System hired Conway to represent them in constitutional litigation over the state’s failure to adjust judicial salaries.
Conway’s ties to Paula Jones
In a case that sheds light on both his work at the Supreme Court and his thoughts on presidential powers, Conway represented in his personal capacity Paula Jones, the former Arkansas state employee who sued President Bill Clinton for alleged sexual harassment. Clinton settled the case in 1999 for $850,000.
Conway helped Jones’ lawyers write the brief before a unanimous 1997 Supreme Court ruling said Clinton was not immune from suit, the NLJ reported in 1998.
Conway, writing about the Jones allegations several years earlier, said in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that Clinton faced challenges in trying to dodge litigation altogether. Conway argued in the 1994 op-ed that a president was not immune from claims arising from personal conduct.
In the op-ed, Conway took issue with Clinton’s argument that allowing a president to face lawsuits for personal conduct would cripple the operations of the White House.
“In a case involving his private conduct, a president should be treated like any private citizen,” Conway wrote then. “The rule of law requires no more—and no less.”
Clinton’s argument for immunity, Conway wrote, “is unacceptable because it would place presidents above the law.”
The work for Jones raised conflict questions for Conway and Wachtell because former Wachtell partner Bernard Nussbaum had rejoined the firm earlier in 1994 from his role as White House counsel to Clinton.
Conway had not officially informed his firm of his work for Jones until several years after it began, but the firm said there was no conflict and that Conway would not be disciplined, according to NLJ reports.
Conway received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1984 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1987.