One of the first law firms to have a dedicated national Appellate Practice Group, Sidley regularly represents clients before the United States Supreme Court, all federal courts of appeals and state appellate and supreme courts. Members of Sidley’s Appellate Practice Group also regularly brief and argue complex legal issues pending in federal and state trial courts around the country and have subject matter experience in a broad array of substantive legal areas.
Sidley has one of the preeminent Supreme Court practices in the country. In January 2012, in naming Sidley Austin a “Litigation Department of the Year” finalist, The American Lawyer spotlighted our Appellate Practice noting, “Sidley is consistently involved—directly or indirectly though amicus filings—in approximately 40 percent of the cases the Supreme Court hears each term.” Since the practice was formed in 1985, the team of more than 75 lawyers (more than 20 of whom are former Supreme Court clerks) has briefed more than 195 cases on the merits and argued more than 108 cases before the Court. Sidley's Executive Committee Chair, Carter Phillips, has argued 76 cases in the Supreme Court (more than any other lawyer in private practice), and is recognized as one of the Court’s premier practitioners. Since 2000, eight Sidley lawyers have argued cases in the Court. In the October 2011 Term, our lawyers argued six cases with no losses in the Supreme Court.
The firm has represented clients on virtually every type of federal legal issue before the Court, including administrative, antitrust, arbitration, bankruptcy, civil rights, communications, constitutional, criminal, employment, government contracts, health care, intellectual property, products liability, tax, and transportation law. Over the years, Sidley has handled many landmark constitutional cases, including U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (constitutionality of state-imposed term limits on members of Congress), Missouri v. Jenkins (proper role of federal courts in imposing desegregation remedies), and United States v. Lopez (Commerce Clause challenge to a federal statute prohibiting the possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of a school). In April 2011, Sidley’s Peter Keisler presented oral argument in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, the high-profile case involving the Second Circuit’s global warming decision allowing states and private parties to sue public utilities for carbon dioxide emissions under a common-law nuisance theory. The Court issued its opinion in June 2011, reversing the Second Circuit and finding that the plaintiffs had no federal common law cause of action against Sidley’s clients.
Sidley’s appellate work has been featured in USA Today, Business Week, The American Lawyer, Legal Times, The National Law Journal and Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, and Sidley was recently named a fifth time to the National Law Journal’s “Appellate Hot List.” In U.S. News & World Reports’ third “Best Law Firms” survey, Sidley again received more first-tier national rankings than any other firm in the country—including a first-tier ranking for our Appellate Practice. In March 2010, the National Law Journal named Carter Phillips one of the 40 “most influential” lawyers of the last decade, citing his preeminence in appellate law. In July 2012, Legal Times honored Peter Keisler as a one of 20 “Visionary” lawyers for being “front and center in almost every major energy lawsuit in the past two years.” Legal Times also has named Carter Phillips a “Visionary” for his role in establishing the firm’s premier Supreme Court practice, and Sidley Appellate practice founder, Rex Lee, as one of 30 “Pioneers,” whose contributions made an indelible impact on how law in Washington is practiced today. In a Georgetown Law Journal article, Supreme Court scholar Richard Lazarus highlighted Sidley’s pioneering role in Supreme Court practice and its success in the Court. He praised the amicus brief Sidley drafted on behalf of retired military generals supporting affirmative action in law school admissions in Grutter v. Bollinger as “perfectly pitched to its judicial audience.” A New York Times piece noted that the brief “may have been the most influential amicus brief in the history of the Supreme Court.”