Pro-Business Lawyering and Punitive Damages:

Jeff Rosen's New York Times Magazine article on the Supreme Court and business reports, among other things, on Ted Olson's work with getting the Court to review punitive damages awards. ("According to his peers in the elite Supreme Court bar, he more than anyone else is responsible for transforming the approach to one of the most important legal concerns of the American business community: punitive damages awarded to the victims of corporate negligence.") I'm a great admirer of Olson's generally. Olson did argue the first such recent case, Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Crenshaw (1988), though the Court there held that all the constitutional claims other than the equal protection had been waived below. And Olson has worked a great deal to promote the anti-punitive-damages claim in public debate.

Nonetheless, at the Supreme Court most of the punitive damages work has come from other lawyers — and, more than any other lawyer, from my Mayer Brown colleague Andrew Frey (I consult for Mayer on a part-part-part-time basis). Andrew argued four such cases: Browning-Ferris Industries v. Kelco Disposal (1989), Honda Motor Co., Ltd. v. Oberg (1994), BMW v. Gore (1996), and Philip Morris USA v. Williams (2007). The last three of these he won.

There were, of course, other cases argued by other lawyers -- besides Olson in Bankers Life, Bruce Beckman argued to limit punitive damages in Pacific Mutual Life Ins. v. Haslip (1991), Sidley's Carter Phillips argued TXO Production v. Alliance Resources (1993), Howrey Simon's William Bradford Reynolds argued Cooper Industries v. Leatherman Tool Group (2001), and Skadden's Sheila Birnbaum argued State Farm v. Campbell (2003). But Frey, I think, is the one who stands out in the sheer number of cases he has argued -- nearly half of all the Court's recent constitutional punitive damages cases -- as well as is the number of his victories. I've got to say that it's pretty cool to work with people like that (though it would surely be cool to work with Ted Olson, too!).

I also thought I'd note that, excellent as Solicitor General Rex Lee was, my colleague Stephen Shapiro -- in league with Paul Bator, one of Mayer's earliest academic affiliates -- was doing business law Supreme Court cases from 1983, the year he left his Deputy Solicitor General.

Disclosure (beyond the above): I worked a very little bit on the briefing in the Philip Morris case.