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Carter G. Phillips


CARTER G. PHILLIPS is the Chair of the firm’s Executive Committee and was the managing partner of its Washington, D.C. office from 1995 to 2012. He served as a law clerk to both Judge Robert Sprecher on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on the United States Supreme Court. Carter also served as Assistant to the Solicitor General and argued nine cases on behalf of the federal government in the United States Supreme Court. Since joining Sidley, he has argued 71 cases in the Supreme Court. His total 80 arguments before that Court are the most of any lawyer currently in private practice. Carter also has argued more than 100 cases in United States courts of appeals, including at least one in every Circuit in the country, and more than 25 in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Representative cases have included:

  • Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc. (13-854), which involved the question whether a district court’s factual finding in support of its construction of a patent claim term should be reviewed de novo, as the Federal Circuit requires, or for clear error.
  • Alice Corporation PTY. LTD. v. CLS Bank International (134 S. Ct. 2347), which determined whether claims to computer-implemented inventions-including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture-are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 101 as interpreted by this Court.
  • Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness (134 S. Ct. 1749), in which the Court determined whether the "exception case" requirement in 35 U.S.C. § 285 requires that the losing party have both an objective and subjective belief that the case lacked merit.
  • Ken Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter (132 S. Ct. 995), in which the Court determined that the government is required to pay all of the contract support costs incurred by tribal contractors under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 450 et seq., even though Congress imposed an express statutory cap on the appropriations available to pay all such costs to all Tribes and the Secretary was unable to pay the full costs for each tribal contractor without exceeding the aggregate statutory cap.
  • General Dynamics v. United States; The Boeing Company v. United States (131 S. Ct. 1900), which determined whether the government cannot maintain its claim against a party (for more than $2 billion) when it invokes the state-secrets privilege to completely deny that party a defense to the claim.
  • Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations (132 S. Ct. 2307), in which the court held that because the Commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent, the Commission’s standards as applied to these broadcasts were unconstitutionally vague.

Carter’s advocacy on behalf of clients has earned him acknowledgement in numerous industry publications. He has been consistently recognized in the top tier by Chambers USA, and received a “Star” ranking, Chambers’ designation for its highest level of rankings, in Appellate Law (Nationwide) for the sixth consecutive year in 2014. That publication said that Carter is “one of the leading lights of the appellate Bar, described as ‘a truly unique talent’ whose incredible expertise sees him appear frequently before the Supreme Court.” Over the years, sources have told Chambers that Carter is “in a league of his own” with “a CV that stretches from the U.S. to London,” noting especially that he “enjoys a lot of credibility with the Supreme Court and has an amazing track record.”

Carter was named to the 2013 National Law Journal list of The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America. He was also named one of the 2012 Lawyers of the Year in the area of Litigation - Regulatory Enforcement by Best Lawyers. Washingtonian magazine named Carter to its 2013 list of Washington’s Best Lawyers as one of the region’s “best legal minds” for his Supreme Court practice. He has been listed in the top 10 among Super Lawyers magazine’s Top 100 lawyers in Washington, from 2007-2013 based on a vote of peers, and also earned a spot on Law360’s list of Appellate MVPs that year. Carter was honored as one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” in 2010 by the National Law Journal. Recognized as one of the lawyers who has “defined a decade” with “a reputation as the point man for high-level appellate cases,” Carter was noted in the Journal for his successful representation of clients in the Supreme Court, and his pro bono and other appellate representations. A year earlier, Carter was named one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years” by the Legal Times. In 2007, he received the Lewis F. Powell Award for Business Advocacy given by the National Chamber Litigation Center, the public policy law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He was also selected by his peers to be included in the 2007 edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the specialty of Appellate Law and has been listed every year since.

Carter’s practice has been featured in articles in the American Lawyer, Business Week, Legal Times, The National Law Journal, USA Today and Legal Business (a publication in England).

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