News & Politics

Hobby Lobby Ruling Ends Paul Clement’s Losing Streak

The Republican lawyer scored in Monday’s Supreme Court decision.

Today’s long-anticipated Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court marks a win for the bench’s conservative members, but the victory is likely sweetest for Republican super-lawyer Paul Clement.

Clement—solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration, now a partner at Bancroft—has argued many of the highest-profile conservative causes at the high court in recent years. But he has frequently come up short, as we first detailed in December 2012. Last term, he advocated for the Defense of Marriage Act, losing in a historic ruling that gave same-sex couples in states that allow gay marriage equal access to federal benefits. The year prior, he challenged the Affordable Care Act before the justices, who ultimately upheld the law in a 5-4 victory for the Obama administration.

This morning’s ruling was also split 5-4, but this time in Clement’s favor. In the case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Clement represented the craft-store chain, as well as Conestoga Wood Specialties. Both companies asserted that for religious reasons, they should not have to comply with a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that they cover contraception for women employees. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion siding with the business owners.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision one of “startling breadth.” Echoing the concerns of women’s rights advocates nationwide, she wrote: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

As for Clement, he’s finally just ventured into the winner’s circle. 

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.