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For lawyers, it can be tough to be a ‘friend of the court’

The Washington Post
N.C. Aizenman
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Washinton Post article regarding "amici curiae," or friends of the court, who argue difficult issues before the Supreme Court, featured Professor Stephen McAllister.

Aizenman wrote:

But Stephen McAllister did not hesitate when he got the call for a case the court heard last year. A law professor at the University of Kansas, he had already come before the court four times representing clients.

“Maybe there are people who feel they can afford to say no,” he said. “I certainly didn’t. It’s a great honor.”

It was also a daunting mission. The work is unpaid, and without the support staff of a law firm, McAllister had to pull long hours to prepare his briefs and argument.

“It was basically almost three months of work,” he said. “It wasn’t the only thing I was doing, but it took a lot of time.”

Then there was the challenge of defending a position that McAllister himself considered far-fetched at best. “Friends of mine were saying things like, ‘You were dealt a hand with no cards,'” he said with a laugh.

He said his sympathy has been with Long and Farr this week.

“I empathize because there may have been a moment or two when one of the justices was asking me a question from the bench, not buying the argument I was making, when I just wanted to say, ‘But you asked me to make these arguments,’” he said, laughing again. “There is a sense of, ‘Don’t be so hard on me. I’m just doing what you asked me to do.

“‘And I’m doing it pro bono.’”

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