It's Lonely At The Top

Recently, I took renewed interest in an old topic: lawyers who have argued the most cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, aka Top Advocates.

I first became interested in this after listening to a Supreme Court oral argument back in 2006 on the Oyez website. The oral argument was from 2002, in case called Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc., and the lawyer arguing on behalf of the government was a somewhat familiar voice: Lawrence Wallace.

What caught me by surprise when listening to that particular argument were some preliminary comments made by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, noting that it was Mr. Wallace’s 157th argument, and that no other lawyer in the 20th century or since had argued more times at the Court.

I was working as a consultant on the Oyez website at the time, where efforts were till underway to produce digital copies of all Supreme Court oral arguments recorded on reel-to-reel tapes dating back to 1955, and I decided to see if all of Mr. Wallace’s arguments were in the collection – all 157 of them.

The biggest problem was the lack of complete (and accurate) information in the Oyez database – a problem that persists to this day. For example, if you search Oyez for “Lawrence Wallace”, you will not find all 157 arguments. This is largely a problem of time and effort. All the information is buried in the many volumes of U.S. Reports, but it takes time to extract and record it.

Obviously, the Supreme Court itself has very detailed records on these and other matters, but sadly, they don’t provide all their data to the public. Imagine that – a public institution that doesn’t share information with the public. Or rather, shares only what it considers essential, and only on occasions that it deems appropriate.

In any event, as of late 2006, I did eventually track down all of Mr. Wallace’s arguments, just in time for Jerry Goldman and me to meet him and talk about his lengthy career in the Office of the Solicitor General. That interview occurred on December 4, 2006 – the same day Jerry and I were also at the Court to watch arguments in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1. It was a busy day.

I’m still lamenting the state of Supreme Court advocate data on the web, but until I have more time to really dig into it, here’s my initial list of some of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Top Advocates.

Written on February 12, 2019