For most appellate lawyers, arguing at the U.S. Supreme Court is the capstone of their careers.
For Marc Elias of Perkins Coie, arguing two separate but related cases before the high court on Monday was just one of several career highlights this year alone.
As an election law specialist and general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Elias in recent weeks has been navigating Clinton’s involvement in the on-and-off recounts sought by third-party candidate Jill Stein while also overseeing the recount of the gubernatorial race in North Carolina on behalf of his client, Democrat Roy Cooper. It was Elias’ essay published on Medium.com on Nov. 26 that alerted the political world that the Clinton campaign intended to participate in the recounts “to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
And oh yes, he has been prepping for the Supreme Court arguments, too. Elias said last week he was trying to spend eight hours a day on the Supreme Court cases, while also “moving from one team to the next” at his law firm to keep an eye on the election-related crises that he did not anticipate happening only a few weeks earlier.
So, when a reporter asked about the North Carolina recount after Elias’ arguments at the high court Monday, he brushed off the question. “Honestly, I’ve been preparing for these cases,” he said, noting that his adversary in both cases was former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, now a Kirkland & Ellis partner with more than 80 Supreme Court arguments under his belt. Cooper’s opponent in North Carolina, Pat McCrory, conceded defeat Monday.
“And I’m still trying to figure out where the men’s room is,” Elias said. Asked how he kept everything straight, Elias pointed to his Perkins Coie colleagues Abha Khanna, Kevin Hamilton, Aria Branch and Elisabeth Frost.