Three legal advocates will take center stage in the unprecedented Supreme Court hearing on Thursday, where the eligibility of Donald Trump for the presidency will be scrutinized.
Representing the former president is Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general renowned for devising the state’s anti-abortion bounty hunter law.
On the opposing side, advocating for Colorado voters, is Jason Murray, notable for having clerked for both Justice Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch when Gorsuch served as a federal appeals court judge.
The lawyer-clerk connections inject an intriguing dimension into the hearing, not only due to the ideological opposition between Kagan and the Republican-appointed Gorsuch but also because Gorsuch and the conservative judges Mitchell worked for play a role in the dispute.
Mitchell, having clerked for the late Antonin Scalia and former federal appeals court judge J. Michael Luttig, features prominently in the case pressing the 14th Amendment argument against Trump. In an amicus brief supporting Trump’s disqualification, Luttig cites the words of both Gorsuch and Scalia.
Closing the loop on the mentioned judges, during an oral argument involving Mitchell’s anti-abortion law in 2021, Kagan seemed to indirectly refer to him, expressing concern about “geniuses” finding ways to evade precedent and the principle that states should not nullify federal constitutional rights. Any exchanges between them during this argument are anticipated to be noteworthy.
Ideally, the voters sought a scenario where only these two lawyers would present their cases in the Washington courtroom. However, Colorado Solicitor General Shannon Stevenson will also participate on behalf of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
The voters initially opposed splitting argument time, but the justices approved the secretary of state’s motion to divide time and extend the hearing.
The scheduled time is 80 minutes in total, with Mitchell allotted 40 minutes, Murray 30, and Stevenson 10. Despite these seemingly fixed time constraints, Supreme Court arguments often exceed the allotted time, making the impact of these restrictions uncertain.
Interestingly, among the three, Mitchell is the only one with prior experience arguing before the justices, despite all three being seasoned lawyers.
While audio streaming will be available on the court’s website, the visual element remains elusive as the justices have historically resisted transparency measures like televised arguments.
However, those preferring a visual format can watch live coverage on MSNBC. Additionally, a transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Deadline: Legal Blog for those eager to delve into the justices’ words.