USA Today profiles Mike Carvin, a partner at Jones Day, regarding the upcoming oral arguments in a Supreme Court case regarding a state law that bans lying about political candidates:
The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a Cincinnati case that touches on free speech in elections, with an anti-abortion group seeking to challenge the constitutionality of an Ohio law that bans lying about political candidates.
The case will pit two brilliant but stylistically opposite lawyers against each other, as they make competing arguments before the nine justices. Ohio’s State Solicitor Eric Murphy is an up-and-coming conservative star who will defend the Ohio law. Washington super-lawyer Michael Carvin is a seasoned Supreme Court veteran seeking to knock it down.
Murphy and Carvin will face off in a legal clash that began during the 2010 congressional race between then-Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus and his GOP challenger Steve Chabot of Westwood. An anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, wanted to launch a billboard ad campaign accusing Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions by voting in favor of the federal health reform law.
Driehaus sought a ruling from the Ohio Elections Commission to block the ads, saying they violated the state’s false-claims law. SBA List challenged the Ohio law in federal district court, arguing it violated the group’s free-speech rights.
The district court dismissed the suits, ruling that SBA List and COAST, a Cincinnati anti-tax group that also challenged the law, didn’t have the right to sue because they hadn’t been criminally prosecuted. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in January.
The justices will not decide whether Ohio’s law is constitutional. Instead, the court will examine whether SBA List and COAST have legal standing – the ability to sue if they’ve been injured by the law.
If the Supreme Court rules that the groups have standing, they can proceed with a constitutional challenge to the Ohio law in the lower courts.
Carvin is representing SBA List and COAST; Murphy is representing the state.
Some big-time Washington attorneys specialize in schmooze and sweet talk. Not Michael Carvin.
So on Tuesday, when Carvin argues before the Supreme Court, those who know him say he will be blunt and brash, ready to do battle with any of the justices who lob a hostile question his way.
Carvin will be trying to persuade the justices that a Washington-based anti-abortion group should be able to challenge the constitutionality of Ohio’s false-claims statute, which bans lying about a political candidate to influence an election.
“Most lawyers who litigate in the Supreme Court have a very refined, laid-back, conservative manner. Mike is not that at all,” said Josh Blackman, a law professor at South Texas College of Law and author of “Unprecedented,” an account of the legal challenge crafted by Carvin and other lawyers to the Affordable Care Act.
“He is very much willing to go big,” with bold arguments that push the envelope, Blackman said.
Gregory Katsas, an attorney who works with Carvin in the Washington office of Jones Day, an international law firm, agreed that Carvin is an intrepid, creative force who spots legal openings that others miss. “His style is certainly very aggressive,” Katsas said.
Carvin’s resume illustrates his affinity for high-profile legal brawls, as well as his conservative political leanings. He represented the George W. Bush campaign before the Florida Supreme Court in the 2000 recount case. In the challenge to Obamacare, Carvin argued on behalf of the National Federal of Independent Business, a powerful advocacy group for small businesses.
In between, he won $60,000 in damages and more than $600,000 in legal fees for Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester. Carvin represented Boehner when he filed a lawsuit in 1998 against Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., accusing him of violating federal law by disseminating an illegally taped phone conversation between Boehner and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. An appeals court affirmed a favorable ruling for Boehner in 2007.
Now, in what will be his seventh appearance before the Supreme Court, Carvin’s target is an Ohio law that makes it illegal to knowingly or recklessly lie about a political candidate.
Carvin is representing Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, in a case that started during the 2010 congressional race pitting then-Democratic Rep. Steven Driehaus against GOP challenger Steve Chabot of Westwood. SBA List wanted to launch a billboard campaign accusing Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions by voting in favor of the federal health reform law. . . .