Former Associate John Paul Stevens Sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
In 1948, a young associate named John Paul Stevens joined the firm of Poppenhusen, Johnston, Thompson & Raymond. When he and two others left to start their own firm in 1952, name Partner Floyd Thompson reportedly remarked that the “Stevens guy will never amount to anything.” History would prove Thompson wrong. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Stevens as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Five years later, President Ford nominated him to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Confirmed 98-0, Stevens was sworn in as an associate justice on this day in 1975.
“I’m deeply moved,” Stevens said after being confirmed. “Like others who have traveled this road before me, I know that the inn that shelters for the night is not the journey’s end. A judge, like a traveler, must be ready for the morrow. I shall constantly strive to be ready for the morrow.”
When he retired in 2010, at age 90, Justice Stevens was the oldest justice then in service and the second-oldest serving justice in the Court’s history. He also retired as the third longest-serving justice in history, spending 34 years and six months on the Court.
Firm Convinces Supreme Court to Strike Down California's Law Restricting Violent Video Game Sales
Representing the Entertainment Merchants Association, a team including Paul Smith and Matthew Hellman convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors on the grounds that the law ran afoul of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and expression. After the firm’s victory in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association on this day in 2011, Paul was quoted saying he felt as though he was on the “front lines of the digital war” and noted that the case and others like it would help to write the basic foundation of laws in the future.
Court Strikes Down "Repugnant" Railroad Bankruptcy Law after Firm's Challenge
On this day in 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of our client Henry Crown, the largest bond holder in the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Co., in Railway Labor Executives' Assn. v. Gibbons. The case arose out of the railroad’s bankruptcy reorganization, which commenced on March 17, 1975. In 1980 -- three days before the bankruptcy court would order the railroad abandoned, with no obligation on the part of the railroad to pay employee labor protection out of its assets -- Congress passed special legislation called the Rock Island Railroad Transition and Employee Assistance Act (RITA), which required the railroad to pay employee benefits of up to $75 million, to the detriment of its secured bond holders, including Col. Crown. In oral argument before the Supreme Court, Dan Murray argued that RITA represented an uncompensated taking of private property and an unconstitutional non-uniform law in bankruptcy. The Supreme Court declared RITA “repugnant to … the Bankruptcy Clause of the Constitution” because it was a non-uniform bankruptcy law. In its unanimous opinion authored by then-Justice William Rehnquist, the Court called RITA “nothing more than a private bill such as those Congress frequently enacts under its authority to spend money.”
Firm Wins U.S. Supreme Court Victory for Client NextWave
On this day in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of firm client NextWave in FCC v. NextWave Personal Communications Inc., returning billions of dollars worth of wireless phone spectrum licenses. The FCC had attempted to repossess the licenses after NextWave failed to make installment payments while reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The agency argued that the licenses were automatically cancelled when the company missed its first payment-deadline and denied NextWave’s petition for reconsideration of the cancellation. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the cancellation violated 11 USC section 525(a), which provides that a "governmental unit may not...revoke...a license...to...a debtor...solely because such...debtor...has not paid a debt that is dischargeable in the case.” The Supreme Court upheld the appellate court ruling 8-1. Former partner Don Verrilli, later appointed U.S. solicitor general, argued the case in the Supreme Court. Former partners Ian Gershengorn (now principal deputy solicitor general in the U.S. Department of Justice) and Bill Hohengarten were also on the team.