When the Supreme Court hears oral argument early next year in the challenge to the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s leadership structure, the CFPB itself will not be defending statutory restrictions on the president’s ability to remove the CFPB director from office. Before the justices granted review last week, the CFPB had agreed with the law firm challenging the CFPB’s structure that the restrictions are unconstitutional. But the debate will not be one-sided. This afternoon the Supreme Court appointed Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general who has appeared over 95 times at the court, to argue in support of the CFPB’s structure.
It came as no surprise that the justices looked for a third lawyer to defend the CFPB’s structure after the government refused to do so – indeed, the CFPB had suggested in its brief that, in light of its position, the Supreme Court might want to appoint a “friend of the court” to defend the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejecting the challenge to the CFPB’s structure. But Clement’s appointment was nonetheless more than a little unexpected. Lawyers for the House of Representatives had requested that the House be appointed to defend the judgment below if review were granted, and in any event Clement was not necessarily an obvious choice: Although widely regarded as one of the best Supreme Court lawyers of his generation, Clement – who served as the solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration – argued on behalf of the conservative side in high-profile cases covering everything from partisan gerrymandering and same-sex marriage to the Affordable Care Act. Now Clement will be on the opposite side from many of his normal allies.