Supreme Court Lawyer Carter Phillips Will Throw the First Pitch at Sunday’s Nationals Game

His wife “finagled” the opportunity as a present for his 60th birthday.

By: Marisa M. Kashino

Anyone attending the Nationals game this Sunday against the Miami Marlins may want to keep their eyes—and apparently their ears—open for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

“He was threatening to come and hoot at me,” says Carter Phillips, a top Supreme Court lawyer and co-chair of the law firm Sidley Austin.

Phillips will throw the first pitch of Sunday’s game, and Alito has good reason to show up. After the justice threw the first pitch at a Phillies game a few years ago, Phillips teased him about his performance.

Regardless of whether a member of the nation’s highest court is in the crowd, Phillips is excited for the game. He says his wife “finagled” the opportunity through “a friend of a friend of the owner of the team” as a 60th birthday gift to her husband, who was born on September 11.

Phillips has argued 76 times before the Supreme Court—more than any other lawyer in private practice—so he’s usually the one writing briefs. But to win her husband the first pitch, Phillips’s wife wrote a brief explaining why the moment would be special to him and their family. She focused on the fact that their daughter, Jessica Phillips, now an associate at Latham & Watkins, was the first woman to throw the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. At the time, Jessica was a summer associate at Covington & Burling, a firm that provided legal services to the team as it made the move from Montreal to Washington. As a thank-you, the Nationals allowed Covington & Burling to designate someone to throw out the pitch. Of the summer associates who entered a drawing for the honor, Jessica won. Like her dad will, she also threw the pitch at a game against the Marlins.

Phillips, a former high school baseball player, says he practiced with Jessica for a week leading up to her big moment, and he’s been just as dedicated to preparing for his. “If I don’t get it over home plate, I’m going to be personally mortified,” he says.

Even if Justice Alito doesn’t make it, many partners at Sidley Austin hold season tickets, so no doubt they will show up to watch their boss in action. No pressure or anything.