Scott Keller has left his post as Texas Solicitor General to join Baker Botts as a partner in Washington, D.C., where he will chair the firm’s U.S. Supreme Court and constitutional law practice.
Kyle Hawkins, who had been assistant solicitor general, has succeeded Keller as Texas Solicitor General.
Keller, a former Yetter Coleman associate who became Texas’ solicitor general in January 2015, argued 11 appeals for the Lone Star State before the U.S. Supreme Court during his tenure. He obtained “major legal victories” in several areas, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office. They included the controversial immigration policy DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents), Texas’ redistricting maps and its voter identification law, federal environmental regulations, a Texas law banning sanctuary cities and the state’s system for funding public schools.
Despite his courtroom success, Keller said he is most proud of building an “amazing team” of lawyers and support staff in the Texas solicitor general’s office and leaving the office in the capable hands of Hawkins.
As of Monday, Keller is now a partner in Baker Botts’ litigation and appellate practice. The Houston-based Am Law 100 firm has moved the headquarters of its U.S. Supreme Court and constitutional law group to the nation’s capital as a result of his hire. Appellate litigation partners Evan Young in Austin and Aaron Streett in Houston will co-chair the practice, with Young relocating soon to Washington, D.C.
Andrew Baker, managing partner of Baker Botts, said in a written statement that Keller’s hiring enhances the firm’s already impressive appellate practice because he is a nationally-recognized appellate, U.S. Supreme Court and constitutional lawyer.
“His experience before the U.S. Supreme Court, where he has argued 11 times, as well as in various other federal and state courts, will add enormous value for our clients,” Baker said.
Keller said he talked to a number of other firms about returning to private practice, but Baker Botts stood out.
“A big reason for that is the terrific team that Baker Botts has already put together and this goes beyond the appellate practice. The firm today added another big hire in the London office,” said Keller in reference to Baker Botts bringing on corporate and technology partner David Ramm from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
Keller said that in addition to Young and Streett, the firm’s appellate practice also includes former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Phillips, a partner in Austin, and Macey Reasoner Stokes, a partner in Houston who chairs the firm’s appellate practice.
“I had a terrific run at Texas Solicitor General, in just over three years in that position, getting to argue 11 cases. It was the appropriate time to consider building out an appellate practice on the private side,” Keller said.
Van Beckwith, a partner in Dallas who chairs Baker Botts’ litigation practice, said in a written statement that hiring Keller will help the firm meet a goal of building its appellate strength in Washington, D.C. and New York to rival “what we already enjoy in Texas.”
After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 2007, Keller clerked for now-retired Judge Alex Kozinski at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and later for recently retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He had a prior stint in private practice —about two years as a litigation associate at Yetter Coleman, a firm co-founded by former Texas Solicitor General Gregory Coleman—and then served as chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas prior to becoming Texas’ solicitor general. Keller was a summer associate at Baker Botts in 2006.
Hawkins, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones, once worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Dallas and Washington, D.C.
In an interview on Tuesday, Hawkins said Keller was an outstanding solicitor general because he always advanced the interests of the people of Texas in state and federal courts.
“The state of Texas was very lucky to have had him as the solicitor general since 2015 and I think Baker Botts is very fortunate to have him as the new chair of their Supreme Court practice,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said his goal as solicitor general is to continue Keller’s work.