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The Supreme Court, Gorsuch and the nuclear option

Veteran Supreme Court lawyer Carter Phillips discusses current state of the court

CHICAGO - Northwestern Law alumnus Carter Phillips, ’77, one of the nation’s preeminent appellate advocates, discusses the current state of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 10th episode of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Planet Lex podcast series.

Host Daniel Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern Law, talks to Phillips about President Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the Democratic Party opposition and the consequences of the “nuclear option” if Democrat senators decide to filibuster the nomination (see excerpts of the podcast below).

The Supreme Court has faced a whirlwind of change and controversy over the last year, with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the election of Trump. Observing it all closely, Phillips shares his deep expertise arguing before the Court.

Phillips, the chair of Sidley Austin LLP’s Executive Committee, has argued 75 cases before the Supreme Court since joining Sidley, more than any other lawyer while in private practice. He was the managing partner of Sidley’s Washington, D.C. office from 1995 to 2012.

The podcast concludes with a brief discussion of the textbook Phillips co-authored with Northwestern Law faculty, “Advanced Appellate Advocacy.”

Excerpts from the discussion:


On Judge Gorsuch:

“I think he will be a very solid conservative vote. In contrast to what would have happened if Judge Merrick Garland had been confirmed. He is, by all accounts of everyone who has ever argued in front of him, precisely the kind of person someone like me, who is at the podium, would welcome. Someone who obviously spends time thinking about the cases, asks excellent questions and doesn’t take himself too seriously and doesn’t take the process too seriously, but nevertheless is an extraordinarily gifted writer and thinker, and so I think he’ll make an excellent addition to the Court.”

On how failed Garland nomination may affect Gorsuch nomination process:

“There’s pretty substantial sentiment among Senate Democrats that this was a seat that was effectively stolen from them, and it’s created not an insubstantial amount of rancor. Republicans have the majority and if they wanted to could eliminate the filibuster with a majority vote here...I doubt that the Democrats will want to push the Republicans to adopt what’s been described as the nuclear option at this point because, again, the differences between Judge Gorsuch and Justice Scalia are not that great. It’s not going to significantly alter the balance that the Court had prior to Justice Scalia’s passing. I’m not sure it’s worth fighting to the death on.”

About Planet Lex

Northwestern Law Dean Rodriguez hosts, and the Legal Talk Network produces the Planet Lex podcast series. The podcasts typically feature interviews with prominent Northwestern faculty members, discussing the law’s role in changing global, societal and technological landscapes.

Topics of earlier episodes include defending Brendan Dassey; the evolution of music copyright law; sexual misconduct on campus; the regulation of public corruption; technological advancements and the law; law enforcement and implicit bias; and integrating the law and STEM-focused multidisciplinary education.

Listen to all 10 episodes.

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