U.S. Supreme Court

The key ingredients in Orrick’s marquee Supreme Court & Appellate practice group are “a deep bench, diverse cases, high-profile clients and a presence in the nation’s highest court.”

Nowhere are these characteristics more prominent than in the cases we litigate before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a recent high-profile report on the Supreme Court bar, Reuters found that a small group of 66 lawyers—out of 17,000 who petitioned the Court during nearly a decade—were more than six times as likely to have their clients’ cases heard by the Court. Reuters identified three Orrick partners as members of this “elite cadre” that “giv[es] their clients a disproportionate chance to influence the law of the land.”

Our deep bench includes nearly a dozen former Supreme Court clerks. Our attorneys have litigated hundreds of cases in the Supreme Court, spanning the full range of the Court’s docket—from copyright and patent law to tort and criminal law; from labor and employment to punitive damages and preemption; statutory domains like environmental law; national security; and the full range of constitutional issues, from the First Amendment to the dormant Commerce Clause.

Our preparation for Supreme Court litigation often begins years in advance, identifying certworthy issues for our clients and assisting them in deciding whether—and, if so, how—to craft a strategy that will position their case for review. For other clients, we counsel them on how to avoid Supreme Court review.

And when cases do reach the Court, Orrick employs its distinctive writing style and meticulous approach to oral argument to tell our clients’ story and build their case. In the Supreme Court, every case really is different, and our deep institutional knowledge allows us to craft the right strategy for each case. In some cases, that is a media strategy, like in Demiraj, where we turned what seemed like a routine immigration case into a cause célèbre that was covered by every major newspaper and pundits across the ideological spectrum—building a drumbeat of outrage to a point where the Department of Justice ultimately settled. Sometimes it is an amicus strategy—as in Windsor and Hollingsworth, where we represented hundreds of the most prominent companies in the country in support of rights for same-sex couples. And sometimes it is simply the very best legal strategy, as in Kirtsaeng, where we saved the multi-billion dollar market in imported copyright goods. There, we persuaded at least one justice to reverse their vote from an earlier case, in a presentation that one media outlet said, “well might be the rare case of a victory at oral argument.”

  • Sessions v. Dimaya (2018)

    Lead counsel in an immigration case affecting thousands of deportations a year. Striking a federal law as unconstitutionally vague, the Court held that deportations are subject to the same clarity requirement as criminal cases. After the Court deadlocked, 4-4, we persuaded the newly seated Justice Gorsuch to side with the Court’s liberal wing, for a 5-4 win.

    Hughes v. United States (2018)

    Successfully argued this case regarding retroactive application of changes to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 for our client after having divided 4-1-4 on the same issue just seven years before.

    Byrd v. United States (2018)

    In a unanimous win, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the court of appeals and held that a violation of a rental-car contract, such as by driving a car even though not listed as an “authorized driver,” does not prevent a person from invoking Fourth Amendment rights against searches of the locked trunk of a car. The ruling is significant precedent for the protection of Fourth Amendment rights.

    City of Hays v. Vogt (2018)

    The Court dismissed as improvidently granted Hays’ Petition in a clear victory for our client, Officer Vogt, who is now free to pursue his civil rights claim on remand.

    City of Los Angeles v. Patel (2015)

    Represented the City of Los Angeles in defense of a law permitting the police to inspect hotel guest registries without a warrant. (Petitioner’s Brief and Petitioner’s Reply Brief)

    Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2013)

    Following a 4-4 Supreme Court split in a prior case involving the same issue, obtained a 6-3 landmark decision, holding that the Copyright Act’s first-sale doctrine applies to copies of copyrighted works lawfully made outside the United States. (Petitioner’s Brief and Petitioner’s Reply Brief)

    United States v. June (2015)

    Argued in favor of an equitable tolling exception to the two-year statute of limitations for filing administrative claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act. (Respondent’s Brief)

    Pruitt v. Nova Health Systems; Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (2013)

    In a rare feat, we convinced the Supreme Court to dismiss a reproductive rights case to which the Supreme Court granted review (and to deny cert. in another case).

    United States v. Davila (2013)

    In a case argued by one of our associates, we contended that a magistrate judge’s participation in the plea bargaining process requires automatic vacatur of a bargained-for criminal conviction. (Respondent’s Brief)