Obamacare Foes Pick Experienced Lawyer For Their Case

Friday, 23 Mar 2012 04:09 PM

By Martin Gould

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Paul Clement, who is leading the fight against the Obama healthcare overhaul, is one of the most experienced attorneys in front of the Supreme Court, having argued more than 50 cases before the justices.

And most observers believe that he could one day end up sitting alongside the very people he has argued in front of on so many occasions. "It's unimaginable that any Republican president wouldn't have him on their short list," Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice told The Associated Press.

Clement was selected for the all-important case because of his passion and humility, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who made the choice, told Newsmax. “If it’s possible to have a great, brilliant lawyer without an ego, who is humble, it’s Paul Clement. He is just truly a genius.”

Clement, 45, is a native of Wisconsin, who attended Georgetown, Cambridge University and Harvard. He clerked for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in the Supreme Court and worked as an associate in the Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis before becoming a partner at King & Spalding.

In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed Clement solicitor general, the official who takes the lead in defending the government’s position in Supreme Court cases. He argued in favor of the administration’s policy on detaining suspected terrorists, against partial-birth abortion and medical marijuana among other cases.

He is scheduled to argue seven cases in the Supreme Court’s current term, about 10 percent of the total of cases, “a staggering figure for a lawyer in private practices,” reported the AP. Among them is a defense of Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

"There's no doubt that Paul has become the leading advocate for the most deeply conservative causes in the law. That is a reputation he has worked hard to earn," fellow Supreme Court lawyer David Frederick said.

Bondi said Clement’s price tag – a flat rate $250,000 to be split between the 26 states that have signed up to appeal the healthcare law – was one of the reasons for his selection. Other lawyers who were approached wanted several times that figure, she told Reuters.

Clement himself is passionate about the healthcare case. He says he is “really interested” in the main question,“a test of power between Washington and the states.”

Since he was chosen, Clement – who represented the NFL owners in the contract dispute with the players that threatened the 2011 season – has left King & Spalding and joined a smaller firm, Bancroft. He quit because he took on the Obama administration on the Defense of Marriage Act, something his old firm was not entirely comfortable with.

The man facing Clement in court will be current Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, 54. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the two men worked together in 2005 in the landmark Supreme Court case that shut down the music-sharing website Grokster.

They also share a love of rock music, the Journal reported. But while Verrilli prefers classic acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead, Clement’s favorites are more cutting edge: Nirvana, the Killers and the English indie rock band, the Kooks.

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