Today was one of those now-rare days when the Supreme Court scheduled three oral arguments two in the morning and one in the afternoon. (Usually, in these days of the shrinking Court docket, it hears only two cases a day.) But what made Monday even more unusual was that one lawyer was on a party's brief in all three cases argued: Thomas Goldstein of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Colleagues of his at the firm and at the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, which he launched four years ago, argued the cases.
Stanford Law professor Jeffrey Fisher, who teaches in the clinic, argued in the first case Burgess v. United States, involving sentencing for drug offenders, and professor Pamela Karlan, founding director of the clinic, was set to argue in the third case Riley v. Kennedy, a Voting Rights Act dispute. Patricia Millett, Goldstein's Akin Gump colleague, argued in the second case, a tax dispute called United States v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Company. It was Millett's private practice debut at the Court, following more than a decade at the solicitor general's office. Goldstein sat at the counsel's table with Millett.
Speaking of firsts, Monday also marked the premiere argument for a new lawyer in the SG's office: Nicole Saharsky, formerly with O'Melveny & Myers, who argued against Fisher in the Burgess case. And it was quite a debut: Saharsky was allotted 30 minutes, but took only seven. She got few questions and may have decided additional arguments were not needed to win the case. Justices say they are pleased when a lawyer sits down early instead of padding arguments to fill time. But seven minutes? Several justices seemed startled or amused by her brevity.