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U.S. Supreme Court

Former Alito Clerk May Be First In-House Lawyer to Argue ‘Orphan Position’ in High Court

Posted Dec 15, 2010 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has appointed 42 lawyers to argue positions abandoned by the parties, and only one, apparently, has been an in-house lawyer.

He’s Adam Ciongoli, the general counsel of a large insurance company, and he argued the case last week, the New York Times reports. Ciongoli is a former Justice Department official, an ex-clerk for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and GC of Willis Group Holdings.

Ciongoli was appointed to defend a sentencing decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in St. Louis. The appeals court had ruled that a defendant’s efforts to rehabilitate himself after his initial sentence, which was later reversed on appeal, should not count when he is resentenced. The government had originally supported that position, but later abandoned it.

An upcoming article slated for publication in the Stanford Law Review surveys the history of the Supreme Court practice of tapping lawyers to argue positions abandoned by the parties, which began in 1954. “While most amicus appointments were actually justified (for a number of distinct reasons), many represent judicial overreaching,” the author, Brian Goldman, asserts in a synopsis.

In oral arguments last week, Ciongoli "made his points gamely," the Times says. He was paid “solely in prestige" for his work on the case, Pepper v. United States.

“I’m honored and thrilled to have had an opportunity to do it,” he told the Times.

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