Seth Waxman: High Court gunslinger


Life is coming full circle for Seth Waxman, Solicitor General from 1997-2001 and partner at WilmerHale.  In 1992 he argued his first Supreme Court case, squaring off against a Deputy Solicitor General in Winthrow v. Williams, a habeas corpus appeal.  On December 5, he was back for his 51st argument (ho-hum) at the High Court, arguing another habeas casethis time, challenging legislative restrictions on review for Guantanamo detainees in Boumediene v. Bush.  His old adversary from the SGs office was there again, toohis name is John Roberts.
Seths 1992 argument didnt seem destined to make a big splash.  Bill Clinton was elected President on the day of the argument, so CNN had other things to do.  And Seths case looked like a dog.  Another guy in the SGs office whos been known to be right about a legal point or twoMiguel Estrada (see our recent profile)said the government couldnt lose the issue, which dealt with habeas review of Miranda claims. 

Seth defied predictions and won the case.  Clinton must have taken note:  five years later, he made Seth his Solicitor General.  (Estrada took note, too.  Most recently, he helped conduct a moot court for Seth in Boumediene.)

After leaving the SG post, Seth spent nine months mulling his options.  He flirted with Brookings, a few non-profits, and the corporate world, but landed back in private practice.  Having plotted the legal strategy of the federal government for four years, Seth got lots of calls from big business wanting him to do similar, high-level strategizing for their broad litigation problems.  Seth says he enjoys his current relationships with institutional clients like Hartford Financial Services, Monsanto, Harvard University, and the California Table Grape Commission (hmmm, maybe thats his weight-loss secret).

Of course, the gunslinger in Seth also relishes one-off appellate cases, like his recent representation of TiVo in a Federal Circuit appeal of litigation with EchoStar.  Hes even satisfied his academic leanings with an appointment at Georgetown Law.  Most recently, he taught an undergraduate class on the Supreme Court, Foreign Affairs, and the Law of War.  Even gunslingers know how to keep their powder dry.