Bench Memos

Who is George Conway?

Over the weekend, Beltway commentators were abuzz with rumors that President-elect Donald Trump is considering naming New York lawyer George Conway as the next Solicitor General. Why the buzz? For starters, Conway’s not a DC appellate regular. More significantly, Conway is married to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who was recently named counselor to the President. Based on these facts, some suggested a Conway would represent the elevation of connections over qualifications. After all, how could Mr. Kellyanne Conway be qualified to represent the United States before the Supreme Court? In actuality, however, Conway has more relevant experience than did Obama’s initial SG pick. Any suggestion he’s unfit for the job is inaccurate and unfair.

Who is George Conway? For starters, he’s a partner at the powerhouse New York firm Wachtell, Lipton. In over 25 years at the firm Conway has accumulated substantial appellate experience, representing clients ranging from NFL Properties and Philip Morris to the Chief Judge of New York and artist Christoph Büchel. Most significantly, Conway successfully argued Morrison v. Australia National Bank before the Supreme Court, one of the most significant securities law cases of the past ten years. By comparison, Elena Kagan had zero appellate arguments to her credit when President Obama nominated her to serve as SG, let alone a successful argument in the Supreme Court.

Conway is no stranger to controversy. His representation of Philip Morris included a defamation suit against ABC (culminating in the network issuing an apology to settle the case) and he served o the legal team representing Paula Jones in her litigation against Bill Clinton. No doubt we’ll see lots of stories about this should Conway be nominated.

No doubt there are other highly qualified individuals in the mix to be Trump’s SG. I have little doubt this is a pick the Trump team will take very seriously. The point of this post is not to endorse Conway as against any other potential candidate, but simply to dispel any suggestion that he lacks the relevant qualifications for the job. He may not be the sort of DC appellate star usually favored by #appellatetwitter, but that should hardly be a strike against him.  Whatever one thinks of the President-elect’s other nominees thus far, George Conway would be a perfectly good selection for SG.

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.


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