The Supreme Court’s narrow 4-3 decision on Thursday to uphold a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas is a victory for affirmative action proponents.
Bloomberg reported that it was a “surprise” decision given the sharp tone of questions from justices at oral arguments.
So who was the lawyer who pulled it off?
Latham & Watkins’ Gregory Garre, chair of the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, can claim the honors for having represented the University of Texas at Austin in a case which many observers thought was going the other way.
As the former solicitor general from 2008 to 2009, Garre is a familiar face around the Supreme Court where he has argued more than three dozen cases, according to his Latham bio. He also clerked for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and previously worked under Chief Justice John Roberts when both were at the law firm formerly known as Hogan & Hartson.
In 2010, Garre represented U.C. Hastings College of the Law in that school’s decision to deny official student group status to a Christian Society that excluded gays from membership.
Judging Garre to be a conservative, the National Law Journal in 2010 asked him about his representation of UC Hastings, a client that arguably advanced a “liberal” ideological position. “We were contacted by the school, and we represented them as vigorously as possible,” he said . “That’s what lawyers do when they represent their clients.”
In the case decided on Thursday, he represented the University of Texas at Austin against discrimination claims brought by a white student who claimed she was denied admission in 2008 based on her race. Following oral arguments, in December, many reports suggested the justices appeared skeptical of the university’s arguments.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., dissented.Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself from the case due to a conflict.
To see a full transcript of the oral arguments, click here .
In his commencement address in May to his alma mater George Washington University Law School, Garre said he was accustomed to the tough questions.
“Every time I argue a case before the Supreme Court, I write the word “enjoy” right at the top of the folder that I bring with me up to the podium, and it’s one of the last things I look at before standing up,” he told them. “Because, for me, it doesn’t get any better than arguing a case before the Supreme Court. And I want to be reminded of that when the dread factor starts to peak.”
Garre added, “And let me confess more generally that, with all the knocks sometimes made against the legal profession, I love what I do. OK, maybe not every single minute of it. Doing bills is never fun. But almost all of it.”
More on the decision from Bloomberg Media.