Alumnus details personal litigations in U.S. Supreme Court for UF Law community
Florida Solicitor General Scott Makar (JD 87), speaking to UF Law students, faculty and others Jan. 25, has argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Four of them were in the same term. (Photo by Amanda Adams)
By Amanda Adams
Scott Makar (JD 87), Florida's solicitor general, received a warm welcome from the Levin College of Law when he came to speak to a crowd of more than 100 law school community members Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Makar, approaching his fourth year as solicitor general, spoke of the five cases his office litigated that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009. Makar personally argued four of them.
"I thought I'd died and gone to heaven," he said about having more than one case reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Makar said the Supreme Court hears around 80 to 90 cases a year, and that Florida has averaged less than one case a year for the last 30 years.
This makes Makar's five cases in one year a tremendous accomplishment for the state. Makar even said that the woman working in the U.S. Supreme Court cafeteria saw him so many times that she assumed he worked there and offered him employee pricing.
As for what it is like arguing before the court, Makar said, "It's like being a pingpong ball in a room full of pingpong paddles," referring to how rapid the examination can be during a session.
Makar argued his first U.S. Supreme Court case Florida Department of Revenue v. Piccadilly Cafeterias, Inc., during the 2007-2008 term.
Makar's next two cases, Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida, both dealt with juveniles who were given life sentences in jail without parole for committing non-homicidal criminal acts.
The following case, Stop the Beach Renourishment Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, discussed the issue of homeowners who were against the reconstruction of the beach that their houses rested on. The plaintiffs argued that the owners would be forced to establish a property line if the beach was replenished instead of just adopting the larger piece of sloping property that had begun to erode. Stop the Beach lost.
This case inspired a cartoon in The Washington Post by Tom Toles showing a state worker pouring sand onto the beach, saying, "We're giving what's left of your beach, and your house some protection, courtesy of the taxpayer," and one of the homeowners protesting, "That's a taking."
Holland v. Florida, Makar's most recent case, examined the one-year statute of limitations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Holland won.
When talking about the work he had to do to ready himself for the cases, Makar stressed one word: preparation.
"If you're prepared," Makar said, "you can go in front of any judge in any court."
While he did say that the U.S. Supreme Court is "the most advocate-friendly environment," Makar emphasized what a "tremendous amount of work" each case required.
"It wasn't just me," he said, referring to the other lawyers who helped research and prepare for the cases.
Each case required two to four people for the brief-writing process, and sometimes up to 25 drafts were written, he said.
During his time at the U.S. Supreme Court, Makar had several sketches done of him while he was litigating. He said that his favorite image of the courthouse, however, was one of his 9-year-old son standing on the steps in front of the building holding a briefcase and bearing a wide grin.
As solicitor general of Florida, one of Makar's duties is to serve as a law professor at the Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee.
"I just love the learning process," he said. "'The learning is never over' is my philosophy."
Even though he now has ties in Seminole Country, Makar still reflects on his days as a Gator at the Levin College of Law. While he was in law school, Makar founded and served as editor-in-chief for the University of Florida Journal of Law and Public Policy.
What was one thing that helped motivate him? "Burrito Brothers," he said after his talk. He said he would push himself to study just a little bit longer or a little bit harder because he knew his reward would be a big burrito at the end of the day.
Although Makar has been busy and one would assume stressed, he said that "the only downside of the job is that it has an end."