U.S. Solicitor General Draws a Crowd for Public Leadership Lecture

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    U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement
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    U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, right, in conversation with students.
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    Katie Weiss, president of the Baylor Ambassadors (standing), relays audience questions to speaker Paul Clement, at the podium.
Sept. 6, 2006

A capacity audience was on hand for the Public Leadership Series lecture given by United States Solicitor General Paul D. Clement at the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center on Sept. 5. Sponsored by the Office of Public Affairs, the Law School and the Student Bar Association, the program attracted so many students, faculty and members of the public that additional seating had to be provided in the Jim Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Classroom and Courtroom.

The Public Leadership Series, launched at Baylor in 2002, is designed to increase understanding of government and the ideal of public service in society.

Dean Brad Toben welcomed the audience and Baylor President John M. Lilley introduced Clement, who is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. Clement also holds degrees from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and England's Cambridge University. Clement is the 43rd Solicitor General of the United States. He was nominated by President George W. Bush on March 14, 2005, confirmed by the United States Senate on June 8, 2005, and took the oath of office on June 13, 2005.

The major function of the Solicitor General's Office is to supervise and conduct government litigation in the United States Supreme Court. Virtually all such litigation is channeled through the Office of the Solicitor General and is actively conducted by the Office. The United States is involved in about two-thirds of all the cases the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the merits each year. The Solicitor General determines the cases in which Supreme Court review will be sought by the government and the positions the government will take before the Court. The Office's staff attorneys participate in preparing the petitions, briefs and other papers filed by the government in its Supreme Court litigation.

Clement has argued more than 30 cases before the United States Supreme Court, including McConnell v. FEC, Tennessee v. Lane, Rumsfeld v. Padilla, United States v. Booker and Gonzales v. Raich. He also argued many of the key cases in the lower courts involving challenges to the President's conduct of the war on terrorism.

After his lecture, Clement invited questions from the audience. He was asked if, from a legal perspective, any part of the administration's conduct of the war on terrorism should have been handled differently.

"It's easy to have the benefit of hindsight and to know now that we haven't been attacked on our soil since September 11 (2001), and to have the benefit of court decisions we have now," Clement said. "I think, certainly, with the benefit of that additional guidance and knowing what we know now, we might well have done things differently.

"But one thing I will say more broadly is that I try not to concern myself too much with what I would do if I had a different position in the administration. In our office, we are asked to defend the legality of policies that have been adopted by the other parts of the executive branch that are more directly involved in a particular policy issue. We focus our attention on the legal issues and to make judgments about whether or not we have a valid legal argument to make -- not necessarily whether we have a winning legal argument to make."

He said to think of that as "somehow deflecting the attention to somebody else or making the hard calls go to somebody else, I really don't view it that way. I mean, just looking at the law, we have enough tough calls to keep us very, very busy. And more often than not, I just don't see how we could perform our function if we opened ourselves up to that kind of second guessing."

After the program, Clement was the guest of honor at a dinner with members of the Baylor Board of Regents, Baylor administrators, members of the law faculty and students, including representatives of the Student Bar Association and the Baylor Ambassadors. Dean Toben presented Clement with a framed copy of the campus poster announcing his Public Leadership Lecture at Baylor.

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