Plaintiffs' Attorney Lends Star Power to Seattle Lawsuit
Paul Clement was U.S. solicitor general from 2004 to 2008.
There was “a little bit of star power” in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, in the latest chapter of the IFA v. Seattle lawsuit over the mandated $15 minimum wage.
That’s according to Shannon McCarthy, a partner at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn in Seattle, and this blogger’s eyes and ears as the case unfolds.
The star is Paul Clement, who is arguing the case for the International Franchise Association and a group of franchisees. They maintain the Seattle ordinance discriminates against franchises because it counts them as large employers based on the entire system’s employee count, rather than the individual franchisee business’s count. In the Seattle ordinance, small businesses have more time to implement the wage hike than large businesses.
Clement is a “big gun,” as McCarthy puts it. He is the former solicitor general, meaning the lawyer who represents the United States in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. “Yes, it was very exciting,” to the lawyers and judges in the room, McCarthy says, to watch him in action. “And as a matter of fact, this is what a big deal the solicitor general is.”
After Clement and a judge on the three-judge panel finished an exchange of questions and answers, the judge from the bench said, “It was an absolute pleasure,” McCarthy reports. “So even judges get starstruck.”
Clement is a “very, very good constitutional lawyer, so whether you agree with his opinions or not,” he’s impressive, she adds. “We don’t often get that kind of star power out here in the Ninth Circuit.”
The hearing was over a preliminary injunction the plaintiffs sought before Seattle’s minimum wage increase went into effect, in April. A U.S. District Court judge denied the motion, and the IFA appealed. The plaintiffs argued the ordinance violates the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which bars state and local governments from implementing regulations that favor local businesses at the expense of interstate commerce.
McCarthy says there was little clarity as to how the appeals court might rule. “I didn’t have a sense of where this was going to go, although I can say that the panel interrupted the counsel for the IFA quite a bit more than the counsel for the city of Seattle.” A decision is expected perhaps within a couple of months.