Abrams Institute Conversations: The Novel Theory That Could Radically Reshape Federal Elections, Carter Philips, Partner, Sidley

Oct. 31, 2022
1:00PM - 2:30PM
Open to the YLS Community Only

Please use this link to make your reservation now, and join us on October 31:


The Supreme Court this term in Moore v. Harper will take up a momentous federalism issue: whether the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures unreviewable authority to set rules for federal elections that may conflict with the constitutions of their own states. Critics have attacked the “independent state legislature” theory advanced in Moore as extreme and dangerous, but four conservative Justices have previously issued opinions indicating they might be prepared to accept it.  The possibility that the Court would dramatically increase the power of state legislatures to enact legislation about elections notwithstanding that state courts considered the legislation to violate state constitutional law has so alarmed state jurists that the Chief Justices and Chief Judges of all 50 states and American territories have taken the extraordinarily rare step of submitting a unified amicus brief opposing the adoption of the theory.  

 The lawyer who brought the judges together to speak with one voice and wrote their riveting brief, Carter Phillips, will be Floyd’s guest at our next Abrams Conversation.  Floyd will explore with him the significant, and potentially enduring, issues the Court will decide, assess the merits of the arguments being advanced, and contemplate their implications for the Court and our country.  It will be a conversation with one of the great Supreme Court advocates of our time that you won’t want to miss.

Carter Phillips is a partner in Sidley’s D.C. office and one of the most experienced Supreme Court lawyers in the country. He has argued 88 cases before the Supreme Court, nine during his stint as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and 79 over the years since he joined Sidley—more than any other lawyer in private practice.  An academic study of Supreme Court briefs from 1946 to 2013 also found Carter to be one of the most successful Supreme Court brief-writers. Carter has been a co-director of Northwestern University School of Law’s Supreme Court Clinic and an adjunct professor at that law school for more than 15 years. This past August, Carter was honored by The American Lawyer with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his exemplary work in public service. At the outset of his career, Carter clerked for Judge Robert Sprecher on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on the United States Supreme Court.   

Floyd Abrams is senior counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and has taught courses in First Amendment law at Yale Law School, Columbia Law School and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author of three books about the First Amendment of which the most recent was “The Soul of the First Amendment“ (2017). Mr. Abrams has argued numerous cases involving the First Amendment in the Supreme Court and lower courts. Among others, he was co-counsel to the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, counsel to the Brooklyn Museum in its litigation against New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and counsel to Senator Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case. Former Yale Law School Dean Robert Post has observed that “no lawyer has exercised a greater influence on the development of First Amendment jurisprudence in the last four decades.

Abrams Institute Conversations are made possible through the generous support of the Stanton Foundation.

Sponsoring Organization(s)

ISP, Abrams