how it feels to be sad about winning a supreme court case.

i realize that this is like the girl crying about only having two ponies instead of three, but bear with me.

on monday, the supreme court released its opinion on a case i worked on all summer. i researched for it, bluebooked and cite-checked until my eyes bled, and it was my (very short term) little baby. it was a fantastic experience. i knew we were right, i knew we deserved to win, and i loved everything about it. and on monday, we won. i am so thrilled for our clients and deeply humbled that i was able to work on such a worthy case.

but we didn’t win on the merits of our establishment clause claim. instead, we won on a standing argument. rather than getting a broad pronouncement on the first amendment, we got a substantial narrowing of taxpayer standing. so while i’m excited, that’s tempered by the fact that 80% of our brief was wasted. all that work is down the tubes.

if the firm had billables, it wouldn’t matter–this would be a huge success. but as a non-profit, you’re looking for big rulings that have a big impact. and yes, this will have a big impact on standing issues, but not on the establishment clause (the whole reason the firm got involved in the first place). hell, you can even turn a loss into a huge win (eg: the kelo decision was a devastating SCOTUS loss, but the firm was able to do amazing things with it–after the case, 42 states restricted their eminent domain laws).

my boss spent ten years working on this case.  ten years. i spent ten weeks and feel defeated. i talked to him briefly monday afternoon and he shares many of the same emotions as i do (but his are at a much higher level obviously).

so at the end of the day, i have mixed feelings. i’m incredibly happy for the win, but it’s not the win i wanted. another case i worked on over the summer was argued at SCOTUS last week. maybe that’ll be a big pronouncement and make me happy. maybe not. you never know.

or maybe i’ll just constantly want more. a much more in-depth post is in the works about my inability to be happy with what i have. the faux trixie had a beautifully articulated post on saturday about wanting more. i suggest you read it. i’ve read it about twelve times in the last 36 hours.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “how it feels to be sad about winning a supreme court case.

  1. I don’t actually know how you feel, but I thought of you a bit when the order came out. Also, if the case that was recently argued is what I think it was, I’m writing (one of) my research paper(s) on it (in large part anyway). Let’s just take a moment to reflect on the thrilling experience that reading oral argument transcripts is, ha! 🙂

  2. Agree on oral argument transcripts. I need someone to act those out for me so that I have some idea what’s happening. Seriously!!

    I’m so sorry your win was bittersweet…. At least you have a SCOTUS case under your belt!

  3. nitta

    hey – we don’t know each other, but your post speaks tremendous volumes to me. i’m a 2L in NYC, and i just finished working on a SCotUS case for a non-profit firm. it was a Fourth Amendment issue, and the case has become a part of me. but i’m finding it hard to explain in my resume and in interviews the significant work that i put into the case. have you run into a similar problem, and if so, do you have any pointers for how to explain the work in your resume? thanks for the advice!!!

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