Paper Chaser: How a Young, Self-Employed Lawyer Became the Best Supreme Court Litigator in Washington

By Mauro, Tony | The Washington Monthly, July-August 2004 | Go to article overview

Paper Chaser: How a Young, Self-Employed Lawyer Became the Best Supreme Court Litigator in Washington


Mauro, Tony, The Washington Monthly


If you happened to drop by the Supreme Court session on April 26, during which the justices were hearing a rather dry case involving antitrust violations, you would have glimpsed a baby-faced young attorney with a slight build and an infectious grin step up to the lectern and begin cranking a handle on the side to raise it to the proper height. A newcomer to the court might have assumed this fellow was a clerk, or perhaps someone's intern. But the insiders knew him well: This was Tommy Goldstein, a smart, scrappy young lawyer who started arguing-cases here four years ago at 29, and who in his persistent appearances since has begun to change how litigation is done at its highest level.

Lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court often describe it as the pinnacle of their careers, at once exhilarating and terrifying. (In 1935, Stanley Reed, then representing the government as solicitor general, fainted under a hail of questions from justices hostile to the New Deal. A few years later; Reed cased into a less stressful job; he became a justice himself.) But if Supreme Court advocacy has always been the Matterhorn of the American legal profession, in recent years it has become the litigator's Mt. Everest, a challenge requiring the best sherpas money can buy: In part because more law firms want the prestige that comes with a Supreme Court practice, and in part because the shrinking of the court's docket--the justices hear half as many cases today as two decades ago--has spurred competition for the business that remains, Supreme Court litigation has become a highly specialized wade. Lawyers who want to go before the court must know everything from how to handle the lectern to what color the cover of their legal briefs must be.

Most importantly, Supreme Court specialists must know how to handle a bench that questions far more aggressively than in Stanley Reed's day. Good Supreme Court advocates know to leave their soaring rhetoric at home; they almost never get to deliver it since the barrage of questioning begins almost immediately after they begin their half-hour of argument. Those who reach this lawyerly apex are, almost to a man--and they are nearly all (white) men--those whose resume includes either a top-tier law school, work experience in the solicitor general's office, or a stint as a Supreme Court clerk. Law firms recently began dangling $150,000 hiring bonuses before the latter candidates, in the sure knowledge that they will earn their keep quickly. Former solicitors general Seth Waxman and Walter Dellinger III have walked into million dollar Supreme Court practices soon after leaving government service, and Theodore Olson, who left the position July 9, is following in their footsteps.

Into this exclusive club walked Tommy Goldstein. He had never clerked for a justice or worked in the SG's office. He earned his law degree at plebian American University, not Harvard or Yale. Yet Goldstein is already renowned among his peers and has begun to make a lot of money; too. This year, his firm, Goldstein & Howe--Howe is his wife and partner, Amy--will bill close to $1.5 million in fees. "His knowledge of the court is breathtaking," says Ronald Collins, a First Amendment scholar at the Freedom Forum and former court clerk. "One cannot speak about Supreme Court litigation without breathing Tom's name. And he has only just begun!"

A debater in high school and college, Goldstein always thought he'd be a trial lawyer. But while in law school during the 1990s, he caught the Supreme Court bug as an intern for National Public Radio's court correspondent, Nina Totenberg. (Goldstein and his wife named their baby Nina after her). Totenberg helped him get a clerkship with D.C. Circuit Appeals Court judge Patricia Wald, and that led to a job with Jones Day, a top appellate firm in Washington. Some attorneys at the firm had earlier begun a project to document "circuit splits" from around the country, issues on which different courts of appeal had disagreed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Paper Chaser: How a Young, Self-Employed Lawyer Became the Best Supreme Court Litigator in Washington
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.