Tell us about your top U.S. Supreme Court or federal circuit court victory over the past year and how you and your team achieved the win. Dean v. US, [a U.S. Supreme Court case], which answered the question whether federal courts must sentence gun use crimes separately from the underlying crimes during which defendant used the gun. Sidley’s Pro Bono Program handled the case in conjunction with the Northwestern [Pritzker School of Law] Supreme Court Clinic. We channeled the ghost of Justice [Antonin] Scalia in persuading the court that sentencing is a practical, wholistic endeavor and not a formulaic exercise.
How did your firm approach appellate success over the past year? With gusto. Appellate success is achieved by providing the court with reasons why your client should win—just as criminal defense success is achieved by coming up with alibis or excuses.
What practice advice would you give your younger self? 1. Avoid lawyerly ‘splain’in. Explication, exegesis and theorizing rarely have a place. Give reasons instead—nothing more or less. What the Fourth Amendment or case X says is not going to win the day. 2. Say it well, but say it only once. You can’t overestimate the goodwill you earn with any justice or judge by submitting a brief that is just about one-half of the allowable length. Don’t be repetitive about what you want, the justices just want to know why you want it.
Responses submitted by Jeffrey Green, a partner at Sidley Austin.