That audit doesn’t look too good when compared to the record of his predecessors. George W. Bush achieved a record of 89-59 (60 percent)—and that’s if you fold in all of 2000-2001, including cases argued when Bill Clinton was president in what was an unusually bad term for the government (roughly 35 percent). Clinton, in turn, had an overall record of 148-87 (63 percent), again including all of 1992-1993. George H.W. Bush went 91-39 (70 percent), while Ronald Reagan weighed in with an astounding record of 260-89 (about 75 percent).
While it looks like this is merely a tale of a downwards trend in recent years, Jimmy Carter still managed a 139-65 record (68 percent). Indeed, the overall government win rate over the last 50 years—I’ve calculated back to the early 1960s—is comfortably over 60 percent.
To be sure, this isn’t an exact science, with some judgment calls to be made about certain cases that aren’t pure wins or losses for either side. The Supreme Court also used to hear many more cases, so the last 20 years or so are statistically less significant. But even giving Barack Obama every benefit of the doubt, his 45 percent score falls far short of the modern norm—which is really the relevant period, regardless of how well or poorly Andrew Jackson or Benjamin Harrison may have done…
No, this is a situation where, as noted Supreme Court advocate Miguel Estrada put it a few years ago when asked to opine on the administration’s poor record: “When you have a crazy client who makes you take crazy positions, you’re gonna lose some cases.”
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