Solicitor General Donald Verrilli had a challenging week in front of the Supreme Court. Few lawyers ever appear there. Mr. Verilli had to do it three times in three days. Some commentators took Mr. Verrilli to task for his performance on Tuesday; others read the tea leaves as signalling that the Affordable Care Act is headed for the ICU.
What I will say is that Mr. Verrilli had the tough end of this argument, and that you should never assume the opinion of the Justices will correlate to the tone of their questioning. Don’t count out the SG just yet.
Mr.Verrilli allegedly prepared for these arguments in a secure Washington DC hotel, dining on salmon for the putative benefits of Omega-3’s on the legal brain.
But perhaps Mr. Verrilli should have retained the services of one Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. If anyone knows how to mount a stout defense of anything, it is Mr. Lewis. At the least he would have fired up Team Verrilli Sunday night; upon reflection Mr. Lewis could have been motioned in pro hac vice, and given the final three minutes of the government’s time on Wednesday.
My reasoning? I submit this as Exhibit A: Ray Lewis talking to the men’s Stanford Cardinal basketball team, right before they took the floor Tuesday night in an NIT matchup against UMass. Stanford won, and the team ran through a concrete wall after the game rather than using the locker room door at Madison Square Garden:
We get one opportunity in life. One chance in life … to do whatever you’re gonna do. To lay your foundation. To make whatever mark you’re gonna make. To leave whatever legacy you’re gonna leave. Leave your legacy.
All he has to do is to flip Justice Anthony Kennedy, after all.
Lawyers can learn three things from Mr. Lewis: (a) be brief, (b) be passionate, and (c) it’s easier to do (a) and (b) when you are standing less than a foot away from a high-wattage powerpoint projector.
It also can’t hurt to “Low-Five” the Nine Justices before you start your argument, either.