The Work

June 8, 2011 5:32 PM

Arizona Hires Paul Clement to Defend Immigration Law

Posted by Victor Li

As if Paul Clement weren't already a hero to conservatives.

Clement, of course, is the former solicitor general (under President George W. Bush) and King & Spalding partner who made headlines earlier this year by first agreeing to represent the House of Representatives in defending section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, and then resigning from the firm after it dropped the House as client a week later.

In the wake of that controversy, Clement took himself and the case to Bancroft, a Washington, D.C.–based boutique whose partners include former Bush administration attorneys Viet Dinh and H. Christopher Bartolomucci.

Among the other matters Clement brought with him to his new firm: his representation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit of 26 states that are challenging the health care reform legislation signed into law last year. Oral arguments took place Wednesday in Atlanta (the L.A. Times has a recap).

Now Clement has another hot-button political issue on his docket: defending Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070.

In a statement issued Monday, Governor Jan Brewer announced that she has hired Clement to handle Arizona's certiorari petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which the state hopes will result in it finally being able to fully implement SB 1070.

Last July, U.S. district court judge Susan Bolton issued an injunction barring the state from enforcing certain provisions of the law, such as the requirement that police officers determine the immigration status of people they lawfully stop, detain, or arrest, and making the failure to carry proper alien registration forms a crime.

In April--finding that the federal government had met its burden of proving that it was likely to succeed on the merits--the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Bolton's ruling and left the injunction in place. Arizona has until July 11 to file its cert petition with the Supreme Court.

"Mr. Clement has an impeccable nationwide reputation for his expertise in appellate and constitutional litigation,” said Brewer in a statement. “He is well-suited to lead our excellent legal team as we advance Arizona’s appeal to the Supreme Court. Mr. Clement has argued some of our nation’s most significant legal cases, and I’m extremely confident in his abilities."

Clement, who was in Georgia today to argue the health care challenge, told The Am Law Daily via e-mail: "I am honored that Governor Brewer and Arizona, one of the states I represent in the health care case, would ask me to represent them in what is an important public policy initiative of the state."

Gregory Garre, Clement's successor as solicitor general and now a partner at Latham & Watkins, says that he believes the Supreme Court is highly likely to take the case, given its importance and high national profile. With that in mind, Garre says that Arizona could not have a better attorney on its side.

"Paul will be a phenomenal advocate for the state," Garre says. "He has exceptional command of the material, he is very good at engaging with the court and directly responding to the justices' concerns, and he has immense skills of persuasion."

Clement's hiring caught some in Arizona off-guard. According to AZ Central, state attorney general Tom Horne was expecting to handle the case and was surprised at the decision bring in Clement. Nonetheless, Horne said in a statement to AZ Central: "It is important that we win the SB 1070 case. Paul Clement is an outstanding attorney, and his addition to the legal team is valuable to the state's defense of the law."

Left unclear is what role John Bouma, chairman of Phoenix-based Snell & Wilmer, will play in the matter going forward. Bouma argued the state's case before the district and appellate courts. Contacted Wednesday, Bouma confirmed that he will continue to represent the state with regard to SB 1070, but declined to comment further.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for Clement. On June 3 he defended the NFL owners and their right to lock out players before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, going up against his former Justice Department boss, Theodore Olson of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, in the process. The week before, Clement formally filed his motion to intervene in the two DOMA cases pending in Massachusetts on behalf of the House of Representatives.

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