Tell us about your top U.S. Supreme Court or federal appeals court victory over the past year and how you and your team achieved the win.
Although the headline-grabbing win for our team was Rucho [v. Common Cause], my most satisfying Supreme Court victory was Herrera v. Wyoming, holding that an 1868 treaty between the Crow Tribe and the United States was not abrogated by Wyoming’s admission to the Union. We knew going in that victory would likely require an unusual lineup and overruling a century-old decision, and we focused our advocacy on those objectives. Our efforts paid off when Justice [Neil] Gorsuch joined the four more liberal justices in overruling the precedent and holding 5-4 for us. Seeing our strategy succeed for Crow members was immensely gratifying.
How did your firm approach appellate success over the past year?
We combine mastery of the record and the case law with creativity, common sense and compelling writing. We find the path to the win, and we write briefs that never lose sight of that path.
What is the most satisfying element of appellate practice in your opinion?
Winning a seemingly “unwinnable” appeal. You scour the materials until a theory emerges; you articulate that theory in briefing; you defend that theory at argument; and the court accepts it. Winning easy cases is expected; winning hard cases is awesome.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned as a young lawyer?
Never decline an opportunity—to write a brief, to argue in court, to call a client, to give a presentation, to moot a colleague. By taking every opportunity earlier, you are making your own opportunity later.
Submitted by George Hicks, partner at Kirkland & Ellis.