Jonathan Mitchell, a well-known conservative lawyer, led arguments on behalf of Donald Trump at the Supreme Court on 8 February – as the former president seeks to convince the nation’s highest court to strike down a ruling that has kicked him off Colorado’s presidential primary ballot.
Mr Mitchell, 47, is a law professor, legal theorist and the former solicitor general of Texas known for finding loopholes to aggressively litigate in favour of his clients – often with conservative agendas.
He has submitted more than 20 amicus briefs to the Supreme Court, notably advocating for overturning Roe v Wade and urging them to declare affirmative action as unlawful. He’s also argued five cases before the justices.
But Mr Mitchell is most well-known for helping develop Texas’s strict anti-abortion law, SB 8. Specifically, he devised the “novel enforcement mechanism” that enables private citizens to bring private lawsuits against those who violate the statute rather than against government officials.
Now, Mr Mitchell is tasked with defending the former president against challenges to his ballot eligibility in Colorado.
In December, the Colorado Supreme Court removed Mr Trump from its primary ballot due to his alleged involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
On 8 February, the Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in the case of Trump v Anderson.
Mr Mitchell, a University of Chicago Law School graduate, argued on behalf of Mr Trump saying the former president was not involved in an insurrection and that, even if he was, the state does not have the authority to remove him – only Congress can.
The conservative lawyer is known for his intelligence and quick-thinking in finding ways to litigate for his clients. He told POLITICO his goal in legal practice is to undercut the notion that the Supreme Court is the ultimate authoritative interpreter of the Constitution.
Mr Mitchell told NPR that it was his clerkship for the late justice Antonin Scalia that made him skeptical of the court. He said witnessing his “more politicised and more results-oriented” decision-making made him of the institution.
That motivation is easy to see, especially in his work and arguments. Regarding SB 8, Mr Mitchell deliberately sought to make a piece of anti-abortion legislation that would avoid judicial interference as a whole.
"I don’t think people realised there were ways in which you could draft a statute that circumvents that entire process. It took a little bit of outside-the-box thinking,” Mr Mitchell told NPR.
It was that implementation of complex legal theories that led Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to call the piece of legislation “a breathtaking act of defiance” of the Constitution, Supreme Court precedents and Texas women’s rights.
Undoubtedly, Mr Mitchell’s impressive legal workarounds are what has made his career successful.
He clerked for J Michael Luttig, the former circuit judge for the Fourth Court of Appeals. Ironically, Mr Luttig is an outspoken proponent of removing Mr Trump from ballots by invoking Section Three of the 14th Amendment.
In 2010, then-Texas attorney general Greg Abbott appointed Mr Mitchell to Texas Solicitor General.
In 2017, Mr Trump nominated Mr Mitchell for chair of the Administrative Conference of the US (ACUS). However, a vote never made it to the Senate floor.
Mr Mitchell then opened his own law firm in 2018.
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