Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy -

The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy - - The Editorial Board

by George Conk
The most frequently appearing Supreme Court advocates come from a narrow circle.  From the usual elite law schools come former law clerks - outstanding students recommended by prestigious professors and selected by Justices who graduated from Yale and Harvard.  They join law firms that value that credential which is highly salable to their clients who angle to get their cases heard by the high court.
But is it really a case of buying the "best lawyers" as the Times editorializes?  Or is the key to their success that these advocates for corporate clients are preaching to the choir?

Arthur Kinoy
William Kunstler
My mentors - the founders of the Center for Constitutional rights Arthur Kinoy, William Kunstler, and Morton Stavis - were not the best lawyers money could buy.  They mostly worked without fee. To reverse a century of disenfranchising Black voters.  For Congressman Adam Clayton Powell - the Harlem legislator barred from taking his seat in the House until victory in Powell v. McCormack (1968). For  Pun Plamondon - a fringe ultra-leader whose case was the vehicle for the landmark wiretap case U.S. v. U.S. District Court (1972).  For SCEF the left-wing group whose prosecution led to Dombrowski v. Pfister (1974) - the landmark First Amendment decision allowing courts to enjoin bad faith criminal prosecutions of civil rights workers.
Morton Stavis
Like today's Supreme Court advocates they were preaching to the choir.  But their choir was dedicated to vindicating the rights of Black people and those who advocated on their behalf. It is today called the Warren Court.  Do we lack today lawyers who have the spirit of Kunstler, Kinoy and Stavis?  Or do we lack a Supreme Court majority that wants to hear them?

The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy -
by the Editorial Board

The United States Supreme Court decides cases involving the nation’s most pressing legal issues, affecting the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Americans — and yet so much about its functioning is shrouded in mystique and exclusivity. The court’s front doorsare locked and its vast “public” plaza is off-limits to protesters. Alone among the branches of government, it refuses to televise its proceedings, even though its gallery can seat only 250 members of the public.

As a new report by Reuters shows, this exclusivity extends even to the types of cases the court agrees to hear.

The justices accept about 75 of the 10,000 petitions they get each year. And of that already minuscule fraction, a stunning proportion is argued by an extremely small and well-connected group of lawyers. All of these lawyers — among the top litigators in the country — have argued often before the court and almost all of them work mainly for corporate clients. Many have clerked for the justices, know them personally and socialize with them.

Those are the central findings of The Echo Chamber, a comprehensive analysis of about 10,300 petitions filed by private attorneys between 2004 and 2012. Reuters found that the lawyer’s name on the brief was among the strongest predictors of whether the justices would take a case.

While the 66 lawyers Reuters identified represented less than one half of 1 percent of all lawyers who petitioned the court during that period, they were involved in 43 percent of the cases the justices heard.

That elite cohort is as homogeneous as it is powerful: 63 of the 66 lawyers were white, 58 were men, and 51 worked for firms with primarily corporate clients.

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