Which Lawyers Dominated the Supreme Court This Term?

Article Placeholder Image
By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 03, 2016 12:58 PM

The Supreme Court heard the final oral argument of the season last Wednesday. And while we're still waiting for decisions in many of those cases, we can now get a sense of which attorneys had the biggest impact on the Court this term -- at least when measured by their participation in cases argued.

In fact, we can get more than a sense, we can get exact numbers, thanks to the folks at Empirical SCOTUS who counted up the Court's top litigators so you don't have to. Let's take a look at the results.

The Elite of the Elite

Joining the Supreme Court bar isn't too difficult, but only a small cadre of elite lawyers actually get to argue before the Court. As a Reuters investigation found in 2014, just 66 lawyers routinely argue Supreme Court cases. And they get paid quite handsomely to do it, with the highest-billing SCOTUS litigator commanding $1,800 an hour.

But the group of lawyers who participate in multiple cases a term is even smaller. Only ten attorneys appeared as an attorney of record in more than one case.

To find how often lawyers participated in cases argued before the Court this term, Adam Feldman, of Empirical SCOTUS, and USC 3L Alexander Kappner pulled data from the Supreme Court's electronic dockets. You can read their full analysis on their website. (See, as well, our editor's note below.)

Supreme Court Top Ten

Here are the ten attorneys whose names showed up the most, broken up by attorneys for petitioners and respondents.

On the petitioner's side:

1. Donald B. Verrilli Jr., U.S. Solicitor General, 4 cases
2. Paul D. Clement, Bancroft, 3 cases
3. Noel Francisco, Jones Day, 2 cases
4. Michael A. Carvin, Jones Day, 2 cases
5. Christopher Landau, Kirkland and Ellis, 2 cases
6. Carter G. Phillips, Sidley Austin, 2 cases

On the respondent's side:

1. Donald B. Verrilli Jr., too many cases to count
2. Paul D. Clement, 3 cases
3. Seth P. Waxman, WilmerHale, 2 cases
4. Scott A. Keller, Texas Solicitor General, 2 cases
5. Neal Katyal, Hogan Lovells, 2 cases
6. David C. Frederick, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, 2 cases

We don't have an exact number for Donald Verrilli, the U.S. Solicitor General, since the count excluded cases in which the U.S. government was a respondent, simply because "their participation shadows all others."

It's Clement's Court

But aside from Verrilli, the attorney casting the largest shadow was Paul D. Clement. Clement was named as attorney of record in six cases before the Court this term, three on the respondent's side and three on the petitioner's.

Clement, who served as Solicitor General under George W. Bush and currently heads Bancroft's appellate practice, was involved in more cases than any other private attorney.

His frequency before the Court isn't terribly surprising, however. Clement has argued before the Court 24 times in the last four terms, according to Bancroft.

Editor's note, May 5, 2016: This post originally combined Empirical SCOTUS's numbers in a way that undercounted some attorneys. It has been edited to correct the error. However, these rankings still do not give a full accounting of the cases attorneys participated in. For example, as a reader noted, David Frederick argued four cases before the Court this term.

Related Resources: