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SCOTUS Legend, Mueller Team Member Dreeben Leaving DOJ Job (1)

June 19, 2019, 6:43 PMUpdated: June 19, 2019, 8:18 PM

Michael R. Dreeben, the federal government’s top criminal lawyer who argued a staggering 100-plus cases at the U.S. Supreme Court and also worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, is leaving his post, according to the Justice Department.

Dreeben argued scores of significant criminal cases over his career with the Solicitor General’s Office. This included the high court’s blockbuster Fourth Amendment case last term, Carpenter v. United States.

“On behalf of the Office of the Solicitor General, I thank Michael for his many years of service to the Department. We wish him the best of luck in the next chapter of his career,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco said June 19. No reason was given for Dreeben’s departure or what the next chapter of his career might be.

His prolific run dates back to the late 1980s, according the website Oyez, which compiles Supreme Court information. Some of the most notable cases he argued came in the area of search and seizure, in landmark clashes over thermal imaging, DNA, GPS tracking, cellphone searches, and last term’s Carpenter case involving cellphone location tracking.

The government lost Carpenter, but by a 5-4 margin in a case that seemed destined for a defense victory, showing Dreeben put forth the office’s best chance at winning or at least losing narrowly.

Rare Milestone

Dreeben is one of only a handful of attorneys who’ve argued more than 100 cases at the high court, and only “the second person to reach that rare milestone this century,” according to Chief Justice John Roberts. The other is Dreeben’s longtime Justice Department colleague Edwin Kneedler.

Dreeben’s 100th argument came in 2016, when he faced off against his now- and soon-to-be-former-boss, Francisco, in the fraud case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Roberts recognized the milestone at the end of the McDonnell argument. “Throughout your career, you have consistently advocated positions on behalf of the United States in an exemplary manner,” he said.

Roberts thanked Dreeben for his “many years of advocacy and dedicated service,” adding that the justices looked “forward to hearing from you many more times.”

Roberts also noted that he “distinctly” recalled Dreeben’s first argument, a double jeopardy case in 1989. That’s because facing off against Dreeben was a young Roberts himself, who was also making his Supreme Court debut in what would come to be a legendary appellate career of his own before taking the bench. He bested Dreeben in that one.

—With assistance from Kimberly Robinson

(Additional reporting throughout. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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