Paul Clement at Center of Supreme Court's Blockbuster Cases

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But Lisa S. Blatt of Arnold & Porter, who worked with Clement in the Solicitor General's office, scoffs at the notion that Clement is only tied to conservative causes or only works for Republican Attorney Generals and Governors.

"That's pretty ridiculous," she says. "He has taken a series of high profile civil rights cases that aren't exactly conservative causes."

One such case was Clement's representation of inmates challenging poor prison conditions in California in Brown v. Plata in 2010.

He also represented two ex-prisoners in their bid to seek monetary damages for prosecutorial misconduct in Pottawattamie County v. McGee. And he wrote an amicus brief on behalf of a bipartisan group of former senior DOJ attorneys in favor of a man who spent 18 years in prison and sought to sue a prosecutor's office for suppressing exculpatory evidence. The case was called Connick v. Thompson.

"The work is as varied as it is interesting," Clement says.

Upon leaving the Solicitor General's Office in 2008, Clement was snapped up by the law firm King & Spalding, but left the firm last spring after a controversy. House Speaker John Boehner had hired Clement to defend the Defense of Marriage Act after Justice Department lawyers refused to do so. But Clement's bosses at King & Spalding unexpectedly reversed course and the firm decided to withdraw from the case. Gay and lesbian groups had mounted intense pressure on the firm for accepting the case.

Clement immediately resigned and wrote a scathing letter to the chairman of the firm. Clement said King & Spalding had backed down because the client's legal position was unpopular.

"When it comes to the lawyers," Clement wrote in his letter, "the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism."

Clement said that he "recognized from the outset" that the federal statute implicates sensitive issues "on both sides" but that "having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it."

Clement immediately joined two of his former law school classmates at a much smaller firm, Bancroft PLLC.

"I say this as a lefty liberal Democrat," says Garrow. "He did exactly the right thing by insisting that his obligation to represent his client outweighed the politics of the law firm. You couldn't find someone more pro gay marriage than I am but at the same time Clement's behavior professionally was utterly commendable," Garrow says.

Clement says that his experience at Bancroft has been "tremendous". "Lawyers tend to work pretty hard; it is really rewarding to work with your friends, especially people you have known since law school," he says.

He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three sons, and says that besides his education, and his years as a law clerk, his upbringing in Wisconsin helped to prepare him for Supreme Court arguments.

"A lot of lively debate at the family dinner table growing up probably didn't hurt."

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