The Marble Palace Blog: The bygone law firm that seduced Ketanji Brown Jackson and Amy Coney Barrett

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Thank you for reading The Marble Palace blog, which I hope will inform and surprise you about the Supreme Court of the United States. My name is Tony Mauro. I’ve covered the Supreme Court since 1979 and for ALM since 2000. I semi-retired in 2019, but I’m still fascinated by the high court. I will be happy to receive advice or suggestions for topics to write. You can reach me at [email protected]


In the ‘It’s a small world’ category, it’s notable that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justice Amy Coney Barrett worked at around the same time and at the same law firm some time ago. over 20 years.

But don’t call it a coincidence, says Nathan Lewin, a longtime Supreme Court attorney and founding partner of the litigation and trial firm called Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin.

“It’s no coincidence that Amy and Ketanji were partners” at the firm, said Lewin, now a partner with his daughter Alyza at Lewin & Lewin in Washington. “It was the paradise that young lawyers dreamed of.”

Richard Garnett, then at Miller Cassidy and now a Notre Dame Law School professor, helped recruit Jackson and Barrett. “Everyone loved this company,” Garnett said. “Veterans stay in touch.”

Jackson joined the firm as a partner in 1998 after serving as clerk for Judge Bruce Selya of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and she left in 1999 to become clerk for Judge Stephen Breyer . After that, Jackson went to other Washington firms, including Goodwin Procter and Morrison & Foerster. At Miller Cassidy, she worked on civil cases, including bankruptcy and employment discrimination.

For her part, Barrett went to work at Miller Cassidy in 1999 after clerking for Justice Antonin Scalia. She remained with the company until it merged with Baker Botts. In 2001, she began teaching at George Washington University Law School and Notre Dame Law School, launching her career in academia. At Miller Cassidy, she worked with Lewin on religious clause cases, and at Baker Botts, she was part of the team responsible for Bush versus Gore.

In 1989, it should be noted, another future judge also toured at Miller Cassidy: Brett Kavanaugh was summer associate. Seth Waxman, Sri Srinivasan and Jamie Gorelick are other renowned lawyers who have worked at Miller Cassidy on several occasions.

Miller Cassidy, launched in 1965, was a 30-plus-year boutique law firm that attracted top talent in part because of founder Herbert “Jack” Miller, a high-powered Washington lawyer who took on clients ranging from Edward Kennedy to Richard Nixon.

“He had an exciting practice,” Lewin said, “and he wasn’t afraid to assign interesting and important litigation to very talented young lawyers who had no experience. It was absolutely blind to color and gender.

In a 2001 Washingtonian article titled “The Perfect Lawyer,” author Kim Eisler wrote that “Miller Cassidy was the best place to practice law. He was free from bureaucratic and administrative headaches. Jack Miller and his partners could take all the stuff they wanted, and no one would care about the money. They thought there would always be plenty.

But there wasn’t always a lot of money. Salaries were below those of large corporations, and some companies began to try to lure talent away from Miller Cassidy.

John Elwood, head of the Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer Supreme Court practice, recalls that when he was at Miller Cassidy, “Miller would often say to associate candidates, ‘I can’t promise you you’ll make a lot of money. ‘money. But we’re gonna have fun. Jack had exactly the right attitude towards practicing law and that permeated the ethos of the place. That’s why I went there after my internship at the Supreme Court despite the fact that their package was by far the lowest compensation of any company I consulted.

Around the time Jackson and Barrett were on board, Miller decided it was time to merge with the big law. Baker Botts, looking to make up for his lack of Supreme Court and trial presence in Washington, seemed like the company to adopt.

“Each needed the other,” said William Jeffress Jr., a former partner at Miller Cassidy and now a senior attorney at Baker Botts. “Baker Botts needed talented litigators in its Washington office, and Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin needed a stable source of profitable business.”

Scott Nelson, who worked at Miller Cassidy before becoming a lawyer at the Public Citizen Litigation Group, said: “I think the merger with Baker Botts was driven by the perception that our practice would be on a more secure financial footing if we were part of of a bigger company. Personally, I didn’t share the desire to join a major law firm for that sort of reason, and I had some trouble with Baker Botts especially in light of his efforts to stop the vote count for Al Gore in Florida.

In the 2001 Washingtonian article, Williams & Connolly partner Robert Barnett is quoted as saying, “The disappearance of Miller Cassidy is a real tragedy. Over the years they’ve had some of the best lawyers in town. It was a wonderful, top-notch company, one that will never be seen again.

Some Miller Cassidy lawyers stayed with Baker Botts, some didn’t. The consensus among company loyalists is that neither Jackson nor Barrett left because of the move to Baker Botts. Jackson and Barrett learned a lot from Miller Cassidy, but they had other paths to follow.

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