William Consovoy, leading conservative lawyer, dies at 48

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William Consovoy, a lawyer who turned a go-to counsel for conservative causes, spearheading ongoing efforts to reshape voting legal guidelines and dismantle affirmative motion and likewise representing President Donald Trump in authorized wrangling over the discharge of his tax returns, died Jan. 9 at his dwelling in Falls Church, Va. He was 48.

He was identified in 2020 with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of mind most cancers, mentioned his mom, Linda Whalen. Mr. Consovoy was a key lawyer in lawsuits difficult race-conscious admissions insurance policies at Harvard College and the College of North Carolina which might be presently awaiting resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court docket. He was unable to take part within the oral arguments in these instances in October due to his failing well being.

Even amongst his authorized and philosophical adversaries, Mr. Consovoy was acknowledged as a formidable authorized mind, one whose affect was belied by his younger age.

“He was insightful, he was clever, he was educated, and, most significantly, he was brave,” Edward Blum, a conservative activist who labored with Mr. Consovoy to undo components of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and on a sequence of affirmative-action lawsuits, mentioned in an interview. “He took instances that the overwhelming majority of attorneys and legislation companies on this nation wouldn’t take.”

Mr. Consovoy stood out among the many many Ivy Leaguers who populate the federal judiciary on each side of the bench. He had aspired to work in sports activities administration earlier than enrolling at what’s now the Antonin Scalia Legislation College at George Mason College, which he said he determined to attend primarily as a result of its location in Northern Virginia allowed him to save cash by dwelling with kinfolk.

“Many attorneys in D.C. have this type of upper-class have an effect on, and Will will not be a kind of,” William Baude, a legislation professor on the College of Chicago and a good friend of Mr. Consovoy’s, told The Washington Post in 2019. “You may inform he’s nonetheless form of the scrappy man from New Jersey who doesn’t care concerning the pomp and circumstance.”

In the midst of his authorized research, Mr. Consovoy discovered function within the legislation and notably in conservative jurisprudence. Supreme Court docket Justice Clarence Thomas, whom Mr. Consovoy described as his “hero,” later employed him as a clerk.

Mr. Consovoy spent the early years of his profession as a associate with the Washington legislation agency of Wiley Rein. He was “deeply concerned,” Blum mentioned, “within the planning and the execution” of Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, determined in 2013, the Supreme Court docket voted 5-4 to invalidate a central provision of the Voting Rights Act, which subjected states and localities with a file of racial discrimination to hunt federal “preclearance” earlier than making modifications to the methods residents vote.

To those that agreed with the courtroom, the choice represented a crucial replace to a federal legislation almost half a century after it was handed. Two those that disagreed, it was a calamitous blow to protections of civil rights once they remained imperiled. Mr. Consovoy, in remarks quoted by the New York Times, characterised the ruling as a “modest resolution by the courtroom.”

In 2014, Mr. Consovoy helped type the boutique agency that’s now Consovoy McCarthy. The next yr, he argued two instances earlier than the U.S. Supreme Court docket — Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a case that was “not well-known to the general public however of nice sensible significance to litigators on ‘standing,’” authorized commentator David Lat wrote in a tribute to Mr. Consovoy, and the opposite, Evenwel v. Abbott, on electoral reapportionment.

However he turned maybe greatest identified for his illustration of College students for Truthful Admissions, a bunch organized by Blum to problem affirmative motion within the school software course of. (Mr. Consovoy was already at work with Blum on Fisher v. University of Texas, during which the Supreme Court docket in 2016 finally upheld race-conscious admissions.)

In 2014, Blum’s group filed federal lawsuits in opposition to Harvard and UNC, alleging that race-conscious admissions amounted to racial discrimination that harmed Asian American candidates specifically.

“If the courtroom … asks itself, ‘Can we be assured that Harvard will not be discriminating in opposition to Asian American candidates in the best way the Supreme Court docket asks us to be assured if we’re going to permit universities to make use of racial preferences,’ I imagine the reply could be a powerful ‘no,’” Mr. Consovoy mentioned in arguments earlier than an appeals courtroom in 2020, according to the National Law Journal.

The Supreme Court docket is extensively anticipated to rule in opposition to Harvard and UNC. Such a choice could be hailed by opponents of affirmative motion as a victory for what they regard as equity and decried by supporters of race-conscious admissions as a strike in opposition to range and entrenched institutional bias. A ruling in opposition to the schools, Lat wrote, “may find yourself being Consovoy’s most enduring authorized legacy.”

Mr. Consovoy additionally attracted consideration as a private lawyer to Trump throughout his long-running battle to forestall congressional Democrats and New York prosecutors from acquiring his tax and different monetary information amid investigations into potential conflicts of curiosity and international influence-peddling.

“We view your entire subpoena as an inappropriate fishing expedition not made in good religion,” Mr. Consovoy informed an appeals courtroom panel in 2019, additionally arguing that Trump was protected by “short-term presidential immunity.”

Referring to Trump’s campaign boast that he may “stand in the midst of Fifth Avenue and shoot any individual” and never “lose any voters,” a decide requested if Mr. Consovoy was arguing that even beneath these circumstances the president couldn’t be investigated whereas in workplace.

“That’s appropriate,” Mr. Consovoy responded, whereas noting that “in fact, Congress retains the impeachment energy.”

In an e-mail after Mr. Consovoy’s demise, Douglas N. Letter, a lawyer who served as normal counsel of the U.S. Home of Representatives in the course of the chamber’s battles with Trump, recalled that he and Mr. Consovoy “squared off in opposition to one another in courtroom on numerous events.”

“Will was a particularly expert litigator,” Letter wrote, “and I knew that I all the time needed to carry my ‘A sport’ when he was on the opposite facet.”

William Spencer Consovoy was born in Plainfield, N.J., on Aug. 31, 1974.

His father, Andrew, was chairman of the New Jersey State Parole Board earlier than resigning amid allegations, which he denied, that he traded favors with members of the mob. He confronted no fees, and his son described the episode to the Instances as “a painful expertise for me and for my household.”

Mr. Consovoy’s mom labored with the state violent crimes compensation board earlier than main a day-treatment program for adults with extreme psychological sickness.

In 1996, Mr. Consovoy acquired a bachelor’s diploma in political science from Monmouth College in West Lengthy Department, N.J. At Scalia Legislation College, the place he graduated in 2001, he studied presidential energy beneath Kenneth Starr, the previous U.S. solicitor normal and impartial counsel who investigated President Invoice Clinton within the matter of his affair with former White Home intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

In 2020 Mr. Consovoy married Masa Anisic. She died the next yr of colon most cancers.

In addition to his mom, of Scotch Plains, N.J., survivors together with his father, of Centreville, Va.; his stepfather, Bernie Whalen of Scotch Plains; and a sister.

Regardless of his stature within the conservative authorized phrase, Mr. Consovoy stored a strategically low profile. “I don’t speak to the media,” he was said to have remarked. “I speak to the courtroom.”

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