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On Tuesday, April 22, Washington D.C. super-lawyer Michael Carvin made his seventh appearance before the United States Supreme Court. He targeted an Ohio law that makes it unlawful to recklessly or knowingly lie about a political candidate. Mr. Carvin represented the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA), an anti-abortion group, in a case that began during the 2010 congressional race between then Democratic Representative Steve Driehaus and his opponent, Republican Steve Chabot. The SBA List wanted to establish a billboard advertising campaign, which accused Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions by voting for the federal health reform law. Driehaus sought a judgment from the Ohio Elections Commission to prevent the ads from running. The congressman said the SBA List infringed upon the state's false claims law. The SBA List contested the Ohio law in federal district court, claiming that it violated the group's freedom of speech right.
The district court rejected the suits, stating that the SBA List and COAST, a Cincinnati anti-tax group that also opposed the law, didn't have the right to sue because they were never criminally indicted. However, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case early this year. Although the Justices haven't decided whether the Ohio law is constitutional, they will focus on whether the SBA List or COAST have legal standing (whether or not these groups have the right to sue if they haven't been injured by the law). If the U.S. Supreme Court decides that both groups have legal standing, they can constitutional challenge the Ohio law in the lower courts.
Mr. Carvin has represented the SBA List and COAST while Ohio's State Solicitor Eric Murphy has defended the law. Mr. Carvin tried to convince the justices that a Washington founded anti-abortion group should be able to oppose the constitutionality of Ohio's false claims law, which prohibits lying about a political candidate in order to sway an election.
In a Politico article, "Supreme Court pushes back on Ohio political-speech law," he stated that merely demanding those suspected of false political speech to go through an arbitration process during the span of an election certainly restricts their speech. Mr. Carvin continued to say by the time people could be cleared of the charges against them the election would be over. He added, "You will never be able to adjudicate within that window - speech becomes moot after an election. This means you'll literally never be able to challenge restrictions on election speech."
Mr. Carvin is a partner at Washington D.C.'s Jones Day. He focuses on civil rights, appellate, constitutional, and civil litigation against the federal government. Mr. Carvin has argued several cases in the U.S. Supreme Court as well as in virtually every federal appeals court. These cases include preventing the Justice Department from obtaining monetary relief against the tobacco industry under RICO, limiting the Justice Department's ability to create "majority-minority" districts, overturning the federal government's plan to statistically adjust the census, upholding Proposition 209's ban on racial preferences in California, recently challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and the decisions invalidating Sarbanes-Oxley's accounting board.
He was one of the lead attorneys, and he argued before the Florida Supreme Court, on the behalf of President George W. Bush in the 2000 election recount controversy. Mr. Carvin also represented state governments, telecommunications, financial institutions, and energy companies in "takings," civil rights, First Amendment, and statutory challenges to federal government actions.
Over the years, Mr. Carvin has been awarded with several distinctions. He has been listed in Chambers from 2005 to 2010, which has called him "a constitutional expert with a deeply thoughtful style." Mr. Carvin has been selected as a D.C. Super Lawyer from 2007 to 2010. He has also been featured in Legal 500 U.S. from 2008 to 2010.
He received his B.A. in History cum laude from Tulane University in 1978 and earned his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School in 1982, where he was a member of Law Review. When the fearless attorney isn't working, Mr. Carvin enjoys golf and the New York Giants.
Mr. Carvin's Memories and Motivations
Did Mr. Carvin receive any awards or participate in any internship that influenced his decision to go into the law? "I was an intern during law school at Washington Legal Foundation. That got me interested in conservative public policy law."
How long has he been an attorney? "Since 1982."
Why did Mr. Carvin decide to become an attorney? "I like public policy, and I enjoy reading, writing and arguing."
What are his practice areas? "Appellate, constitution and voting rights."
What is Mr. Carvin known for professionally? "I am known for taking on complicated, high-visibility cases, usually involving the Constitution and against the U.S. Justice Department."
What are his strengths and weaknesses as an attorney? "I'm quick on my feet, but sometimes too dogmatic."
What area of the law is Mr. Carvin most passionate about? "I am most passionate about constitutional law."
If he were not a lawyer, what would he most probably be doing? "I really don't know. Something creative."
Where does Mr. Carvin see himself in five years time? "I will still be at Jones Day, continuing my current practice."
What motivates him to be an attorney everyday? "The rule of law."
How does Mr. Carvin want to be remembered? "As a good husband, father and law partner."
Talented Lawyers at Jones Day, Pro Bono Work, Non-profit Organizations and Final Thoughts
Does Mr. Carvin consider himself a mentor? "No. I don't have a specific person to mentor. We have a lot of talented young lawyers at Jones Day, whom I help."
Does he handle pro bono work? "As a pro bono matter, I represented Kinston, North Carolina in challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act."
Is Mr. Carvin involved with any non-profit organizations? "I'm involved with the Federalist Society and the Center for Individual Rights."
When asked what would be impossible for him to give up, he replied, "My family, my practice and golf."
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