By Joe Palazzolo
Today, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s Patricia Millett argued her 31st case before the Supreme Court — the most by any woman in history. Millett jumped ahead of Arnold & Porter’s Lisa Blatt, who has 30 arguments before the high court under her belt (29 of which ended in wins, by the way).
The women head their respective firms’ Supreme Court practice. According to the National Law Journal’s Tony Mauro, the two are friends and veterans of the solicitor general’s office where they argued most of their cases. Until recently, they were competing with the record of the late Beatrice Rosenberg, a Justice Department lawyer who argued 29 cases between the 1940s and 1970s.
“Beatrice should count double,” Millett told Mauro. “It was a lot harder for her to be a trailblazer then. She’s the Babe Ruth of it all, one of the people who made it possible for us.”
Millett also pointed out that some of her male counterparts such as Sidley Austin’s Carter Phillips, who has argued 76 cases, have twice as many cases to their credit. The record holder is former deputy solicitor general Lawrence G. Wallace, who retired in 2003 after 157 arguments before the Supreme Court.
The mantle of “most experienced” could change hands several times. Blatt, who graduated from University of Texas School of Law in 1989, and Millett, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, are in their prime.
In Tuesday’s arguments, Millett represented the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, which is fighting a lawsuit that seeks to shut down a casino the tribe opened in southwestern Michigan.
David Patchak sued to stop the casino from being built, challenging how the government placed the land in trust for the tribe. He argues, according to the AP, the move was illegal since the government had not yet recognized the tribe in 1934 when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed.
A federal district court threw out the lawsuit; Patchak appealed. The casino opened last year, days after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the lawsuit. The tribe and the Justice Department appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
According to the AP, several justices seemed troubled Tuesday at the thought of letting the lawsuit move forward.