Jan 29

Issue: Supreme Court RSS

PJP FACULTY MEMBER LISA BLATT ON LESSONS SHE HAS LEARNED FROM HER CAREER OF ADVOCACY BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT



Posted 3 years, 2 months ago.

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PJP Faculty member and Arnold and Porter partner Lisa Blatt, who has now gave a talk at the Chattaqua Institution in New York state last year on what she had learned in her years of advocacy before the Supreme Court. Her remarks, recently published in the popular law journal “Green Bag” . Below are some excerpts from her essay. A link to the complete text can be found here.

1) I learned that the Court will continue to change the meaning of the Constitution. Although all of the Justices have expressed the importance of judicial restraint, the Court inevitably makes new law every time it interprets the Constitution…

2) The Supreme Court is not the impetus for constitutional change – we are. In thinking about the Supreme Court, the public typically focuses on one decision that announces a new right, such as Roe v. Wade, or the one particular Justice that authored that opinion, such as Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Roe parsing the right to abortion according to the trimester of a woman’s pregnancy.

But the Supreme Court does not make sweeping changes in constitutional law by accident, or by its own design. Rather, the Court is limited to deciding the cases that the parties ask the Court to decide…

3) Facts matter. The Justices are human beings, not wooden scholars who are myopically focused on the legal principle being advanced by the parties. The Justices are acutely aware of the facts in every case, and they know that their decision not only sets the law of the Nation, but also that their decision immediately resolves the present dispute between the two parties…

4) Timing is everything. Change does not happen overnight but does so over many years or decades, with precedent building on precedent. Choosing when to bring a case to the Court requires a special skill in predicting how far the Court is willing to go, in either expanding or retreating from prior precedent…

5) The Supreme Court Wants to Hear from the Peanut Gallery. …The Latin phrase amicus curiae means “friend of the Court.” The former Chief Justice Rehnquist explained that an amicus is “someone who is not a party to the litigation, but who believes that the court’s decision may affect its interest.” These amici routinely include governments, public interest organizations, academia, Congressmen, former government officials, professional organizations, trade associations, businesses, and private individuals. In recent years, amici briefs have taken on increased prominence when a party petitions for the Court to review a lower court decision…



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