Ethan Torrey, a partner at the Boston law firm Choate Hall & Stewart, will be the next legal counsel of the Supreme Court. The court announced on Wednesday that he will assume the post on January 6, 2014.
Torrey will succeed Scott Harris, who served as counsel for the court for 11 years until he became the new clerk of the court September 1.
The position of legal counsel at the court, created by Chief Justice Warren Burger 40 years ago, is very much a behind-the-scenes job, assisting the justices with a range of case-related and other matters. The counsel sometimes helps justices with circuit duties, original jurisdiction cases and emergency applications. The office played a role in the court's compressed consideration of the White House tapes in the United States v. Nixon case during Watergate. In that sense, the legal counsel resembles staff attorney positions that exist in some lower courts, supplementing the work of law clerks who stay for one or at the most two years.
The legal counsel also works with the Department of Justice on lawsuits filed against the court, including the perennial cases in which demonstrators challenge their arrests on Supreme Court grounds. In addition, justices sometimes consult with the office on questions of ethics.
In his position with Choate, Torrey specializes in complex business litigation, primarily in the field of insurance and reinsurance. He was formerly a special assistant district county in Middlesex County, Massachusetts and an associate at Ropes & Gray. His federal experience includes clerking for U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in Boston and Judge Leonard Garth of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Torrey declined to comment on his new position, but John Nadas, co-managing partner at Choate, described him as "a great lawyer, a very smart lawyer, very disciplined and organized. We're going to miss him."