At the end of every year, Lawyers USA recognizes attorneys who have made a significant impact in the legal world during the year just past. These lawyers’ accomplishments in 2012 earned each of them the title “Lawyer of the Year.”
In both cases, appellate public defenders argued on behalf of their clients before the highest court in the land for the first time in their careers – and won.
Everyone has experienced a bad day at the office. And most lawyers have developed a thick skin against public criticism and mockery. But only one lawyer this year had to endure being called a “train wreck” on national television and being pilloried for making “the worst Supreme Court argument of all time.”
Such was the low point for Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. after defending the highly divisive Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, before the High Court.
For attorneys Kelly Clark and Paul Mones, protecting children is business as usual. Clark’s practice over the last 10 years has focused on representing survivors of abuse, while Mones pioneered the theory of “battered child syndrome” in defending children and adolescents across the country.
But the two made headlines this year when they released a series of records collected in secret by the Boy Scouts that detailed complaints of child abuse against Scoutmasters and other Scouting volunteers.
Arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time is a big assignment for any attorney. But when the case has the potential to lead to a blockbuster Fourth Amendment ruling addressing the privacy rights of citizens in an electronic age, it can be a particularly daunting task.
When Stephen C. Leckar faced that challenge representing the defendant in GPS tracking case U.S. v. Jones, he took a deliberate approach; he focused on his client. Instead of urging the Court to adopt an expansive ruling, he tried to convince a majority of the justices that a narrow one would do.
Joplin, Mo. attorney Roger Johnson knows that first hand, having seen many of his colleagues leave the field when the state passed curbs on medical malpractice cases in 2005.
But it should be a whole lot easier plying the trade now. Last summer, Johnson succeeded in getting the state’s $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court.