Over at the ACS blog, Nicole Flatow interviewed attorney and State Appellate Defender Valerie Newman about her experience arguing before the Supreme Court on behalf of the respondent in Lafler v. Cooper. Rarely, do we hear an unvarnished take on what it is like for attorneys to argue before the high court. Speaking of the experience, Ms. Newman said:
“It was not a pleasant experience,” she said. “… I tell people the experience felt to me like there were nine lions, even though Justice Thomas never talked, and I was the piece of meat that was thrown into the ring and they were just all scratching at me to see who could get the biggest piece.”
That is likely the experience for most people at their first oral argument before the Supreme Court, especially if you are defending a pro-defendant result.
But this story has a happy ending. Ms. Newman stood her ground during oral argument and ultimately prevailed in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy. Lafler, along with Missouri v. Frye, were two of the most important criminal cases the Court decided this term. In fact, those two cases may go along side some of the most important rulings ever on ineffective assistance of counsel, cases such as Strickland, Padilla, and Wiggins.
Nice work Ms. Newman.