When Paul Clement stands in front of the Supreme Court’s nine justices to argue a case, the effect is akin to watching a game of speed chess, only speed chess contested on nine different boards against nine relentless players. Clement addresses all the boards at once. He’ll make a rhetorical move on one justice here, only to find another skeptical justice requiring attention over there — he has arguments tailored for the court’s fence-sitters especially.
If the justices have anything in common during an oral argument at the court, it is a willingness to express in-your-face sarcasm for a lawyer’s weak gambit. But when Clement, a Republican and former U.S. solicitor general, is on his game, he is a grandmaster, conservative and liberal lawyers agree.