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Supreme Recruits: Meet V&E’s Roster of Former Supreme Court Clerks

When Jeremy Marwell was completing a clerkship for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and weighing his next move, V&E’s DC office was hardly an obvious choice.

The year was 2010 and the firm was just starting to build a Supreme Court and Appellate practice in the nation’s capital. Joining at that early stage required a leap of faith for the young SCOTUS clerk.

“We are punching above our weight for a firm our size. We have enough critical mass in terms of experience to handle anything a client might want. At the same time, we are nimble.”

“V&E was off the beaten path,” Marwell said. “But the firm was committed to growing a first-rate Supreme Court and Appellate practice in DC. I was excited by the opportunity to be part of building that from the ground up.”

Sure enough, in the years that followed, V&E would boost the ranks of its former Supreme Court clerks with a series of strategic hires across several practices.

In addition to Marwell, who is now a partner at the firm, V&E lured former SCOTUS clerks Joshua Johnson and Max Etchemendy. Each a star in his own right, Marwell, Johnson, and Etchemendy brought a deep knowledge of the Court, appellate procedure, and the ways to frame an appeal to maximize success.

Today, V&E’s D.C. Appellate practice is a formidable adversary in appellate litigation, regularly appearing in federal Courts of Appeals around the country and the U.S. Supreme Court. V&E can step into a pending appeal at a moment’s notice or shepherd a case from complaint all the way up to the Supreme Court.

V&E’s former SCOTUS clerks found their skills and experience complement the firm’s longstanding strengths in areas ranging from energy, environmental, and infrastructure litigation, to white collar, antitrust, and commercial disputes. Law360 recently named Marwell an “Environmental MVP” in recognition of his representation of several pipeline and industry clients involved in high stakes disputes at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was one of five attorneys in the country to receive the award.

Marwell, Johnson, and Etchemendy have further raised V&E’s profile in the Supreme Court bar by serving as lecturers and advisors at the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Through the clinic V&E is representing the state of Georgia in a high profile matter regarding the scope of a common-law exception to copyright protection that the Supreme Court has not addressed since creating it in a series of nineteenth-century cases. The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Georgia’s case.

“Jeremy, Josh, and Max bring a highly valuable, broad perspective on a whole host of cases,” said Thomas Leatherbury, who co-heads V&E’s Appellate practice. “They can think through complex legal issues. Their knowledge of the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit and the D.C. Circuit is very, very helpful.”

“Their briefing sparkles,” added Marie Yeates, who co-heads V&E’s Appellate practice alongside Leatherbury. “They enhance our practice because they’re such stellar lawyers.”

V&E’s efforts to bolster its ranks of former SCOTUS clerks has extended beyond its Appellate practice.

Maritza Okata, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, joined the firm in 2011 shortly after Marwell arrived. She is a Mergers & Acquisitions and Private Equity partner. After a brief stint in the firm’s Washington, DC office, Okata is now based in New York.

Last year V&E lured Ron Tenpas, who had clerked for then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. A former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a former United States Attorney, Tenpas is one of the country’s preeminent environmental litigators and white-collar practitioners.

“We are punching above our weight for a firm our size,” said Tenpas, who is an Environmental and Natural Resources and Government Investigations partner at the firm. “We have enough critical mass in terms of experience to handle anything a client might want. At the same time, we are nimble.  We give every matter the appropriate attention.”

V&E+ recently caught up with V&E’s former SCOTUS clerks to talk about their Supreme Court experiences and the ways in which their clerkships changed them professionally and personally.

Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing their stories. Read on to learn how Johnson’s clerkship for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped shape his career.