A pair of Texas litigators are following Cruz’s lead as they gird for a Supreme Court battle this April.
On the campaign trail, Ted Cruz has vowed to rescind President Barack Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration — but it’s two of his former aides who could actually kill it.
Scott Keller and Chip Roy — who served in top roles in Cruz’s Senate office — are now litigators on behalf of Texas, leading the lawsuit against Obama’s unilateral actions, which are at the cornerstone of the president’s immigration legacy. The duo’s positions also underscore Cruz’s enduring influence and reach at the Texas attorney general’s office, where the Republican presidential candidate served as the state’s top appellate lawyer and built a launching pad for his political career.
Keller and Roy are now preparing for high-stakes oral arguments at the Supreme Court in April, hoping to persuade enough justices to rule that Obama’s 2014 executive actions to grant work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the United States illegally flies in the face of the separation of powers. A decision is expected in June.
To the two men, Cruz isn’t just a former boss or an old professor who grabbed drinks with them after a tough legal seminar. Nowadays, Cruz is a mentor who instilled key lessons the lawyers keep in mind during heated legal battles.
“One of the most important lessons or things I learned from my time under Sen. Cruz was how to distill down your message,” Keller said in a phone interview with Politico. “When you’re in court, obviously you can get into the technical weeds … but it’s important to remember the high-level messaging.”
Both Keller’s and Roy’s history with Cruz extends to the senator’s time as the state’s solicitor general, the position that Keller now holds. (Roy is the state’s first assistant attorney general, making him Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top deputy.) Roy, who was chief of staff in Cruz’s Senate office, first met the future senator during a strategy session to discuss League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, a 2006 redistricting case that Cruz argued before the Supreme Court.
And Keller was one of Cruz’s students when he was an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Law School. The future senator taught a Supreme Court litigation seminar, regaling students with tales from legal fights and joining them for the occasional margarita after class.
“He was fascinating,” Keller recalled. “He had so many war stories from his time of litigating all the various cases that he had. One thing that always stuck out to me, though, was he would stay after class as long as students had questions about war stories or how to improve as appellate advocates.”
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