Every litigator has dreams of arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court.
But most would admit that, should they have a case that gets there, they would call in an “expert” Supreme Court advocate.
It sounds like some of those experts feel like they are the only ones who can get the job done.
Zach Lowe of The Am Law Daily highlighted a story in the Connecticut Law Tribune talking about Brideport, Connecticut attorney Craig Smith. When the case arose in 2006, Smith, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, was a fourth year associate.
Smith took the case of his cousin in Georgia who had been fired for refusing to take back a statement that he had discovered that some of the workers he supervised were undocumented. Soon an attorney-client privilege issued developed — whether mid-trial appeal is allowable on decisions on attorney-cliet privilege.
The Supreme Court ended up taking the case, and it was heard on Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s first day of hearing arguments on the Court.
But before the arguments could be made, all the briefing had to be done. And Smith got a lot of pressure from firms with more Supreme Court experince to pass off the task.
Connecticut Law Tribune: Immediately, Smith’s phone began to ring with calls from high-powered Supreme Court specialists, with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta. There are only about 12 firms around the country that regularly handle Supreme Court cases, and if one of them wasn’t involved, Smith was warned, he wouldn’t stand much of a chance.
Smith was admitted to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, and was legally entitled to argue his cousin’s case. But the high-pressure callers gave him a lot to worry about. “You could ruin this for everybody, and mess up the law into the future,” he was told. “I’ve heard a lot of threats in my time as a lawyer. But this was something new for me.”
“Some of those calls were downright nasty,” agreed Koskoff senior partner Michael Koskoff.
Unfortunately, Smith did not name names, so we’ll never know who, exactly, was “nasty.”
Smith ended up having Yale Law professor Judith Resnik argue the case; Resnik took him under her wing, Smith said, and helped him with the briefing. Smith, did, however, sit at the counsel’s table during arguments.
The court, of course, ruled in Smith’s client’s favour, and the opinion will go down in history as the first written by Justice Sotomayor.
The full background, and more on Smith’s trip to the Supreme Court, is here.
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