On Tuesday, we reported on a tussle among advocates over which one should get to argue before the Supreme Court in Carcieri v. Kempthorne, an Indian land case, on Nov. 3. Boiling down the motions and countermotions, it comes down to this: the governor and attorney general of Rhode Island, both of whom wanted their own argument time, now want Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Supreme Court veteran Theodore Olson to argue. But the town of Charlestown, Rhode Island, where the disputed parcel of land sits, wants its Indian affairs staff lawyer Joseph Larisa Jr. to argue instead. "I know this case far better than Ted," Larisa told us on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court denied motions for dividing argument time among the three Rhode Island entities. Larisa proposed a coin toss to resolve the "massive impasse" but the state has resisted. Meanwhile, the date of argument approaches.
Two days later, it appears that no one is budging very much, but there are developments to report. In this Providence Journal article today, Rhode Island's chief justice Frank Williams weighed in on the dispute, throwing his support behind Larisa. “He’s one of our best appellate lawyers,” Williams said. “Joe Larisa would be a superb advocate for not only the town’s position, but the state’s position.” Larisa has argued the case for the state and the town for a decade. The Journal article indicated that Gov. Donald Carcieri hired Olson for $200,000 after the high court granted review in February.
Meanwhile, the state attorney general's office added fuel to the fire, with its spokesman opining, according to the Journal article, “The only thing that has made this the controversy that is it is Joe Larisa’s ego, which is astounding.” The spokesman also referred to Larisa as an "oppositional, defiant toddler." The governor's office, for its part, is proposing two coin tosses with Larisa first with the governor's office and then, if Larisa wins, a second one with the attorney general's office. Larisa doesn't like those odds and has rejected the idea."It should be 50-50, and their plan would be to make it 75-25 against me," Larisa told us this morning. Larisa has proposed another solution: moot court presentations of the argument by him and then, separately, by Olson, before "a panel of neutral professors" who would grade their performances. The one with the most points would argue before the real Supreme Court. But Larisa is not optimistic about anyone agreeing to that idea. "I'm waiting for the coin toss."