Kannon K. Shanmugam

Partner, Williams & Connolly LLP

Kannon Shanmugam is a partner focusing on Supreme Court and appellate litigation. He has been described as a "wunderkind" (Am Law Litigation Daily) and "rising star" (Legal Times) of the Supreme Court bar. He has argued ten cases before the Supreme Court, more than any other lawyer in the firm's history except Edward Bennett Williams. In 2009, he argued Merck & Co. v. Reynolds, which concerned the statute of limitations for private securities-fraud actions, and Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which involved a challenge to an injunction barring the State of Hawaii from selling public lands held in trust for Native Hawaiians.

Mr. Shanmugam joined the firm in 2008 after serving as an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. He was the first lawyer to join the firm directly as a partner for 22 years. While representing the United States before the Supreme Court, he worked on significant matters in the areas of securities, antitrust, and complex criminal litigation. He successfully argued Tellabs v. Makor Rights, which concerned the standard for pleading state of mind in a federal securities-fraud action; Weyerhaeuser v. Ross-Simmons, which involved the standard for a claim of predatory bidding under the federal antitrust laws; and Oregon v. Guzek, which concerned the type of mitigating evidence that can be used at sentencing in capital cases.

During his tenure at the Justice Department, Mr. Shanmugam was also responsible for preparing the briefs of the United States in a number of other significant Supreme Court cases, including Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta, a case involving the availability of "scheme liability" under the federal securities laws; United States v. Atlantic Research, a case concerning the availability of actions for reimbursement of environmental cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; and Arthur Andersen v. United States, an appeal by Arthur Andersen from its conviction for obstruction of justice in connection with the collapse of Enron. He received a commendation from the Justice Department's Environmental and Natural Resources Division for his work on environmental litigation.

Before joining the Justice Department, Mr. Shanmugam was an associate at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where he worked on a variety of Supreme Court and appellate matters. Most notably, he was responsible for preparing the brief on behalf of Senator Mitch McConnell and other challengers to the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law in McConnell v. FEC. He also represented the plaintiffs in Granholm v. Heald, a successful challenge to a state law prohibiting the direct shipment of wine to consumers.

Mr. Shanmugam was born in Lawrence, Kansas, the son of Indian immigrants. He grew up there and was co-valedictorian of his class at Lawrence High School. He went to Harvard at age 16, where he majored in classics and graduated summa cum laude. After being selected as a Marshall Scholar, he obtained a master's degree in classics from the University of Oxford. He then returned to Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude in 1998; there, he served as executive editor of the Harvard Law Review and argued the case for the winning side in the moot court competition. After law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court and then-Judge J. Michael Luttig on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Earlier in 2010, Lawdragon magazine named Mr. Shanmugam one of the "500 Leading Lawyers in America." In listing him as a notable practitioner in the area of appellate litigation, Chambers USA stated that he "is recommended by clients for his fresh perspective and energetic approach" and that "peers report there's an elegance to his arguments and poise and sophistication in his presentation that is extremely impressive." The Legal 500 described him as "very capable and very quick on his feet in front of the justices" and "the total package: very smart, very personable, and very intuitive."

Mr. Shanmugam has spoken extensively on the Supreme Court and legal issues. He currently serves on the boards of trustees of the Supreme Court Historical Society, the American Inns of Court, and the Association of Marshall Scholars. He has served as secretary of the Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court, and as a member of the executive committee of the American Bar Association's Council of Appellate Lawyers. He is a member of the firm's pro bono committee and is active in the Washington community. He currently serves on the vestry of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, Virginia, and has worked as a volunteer teacher at Anacostia High School in Southeast Washington.

  • Harvard Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 1998; Executive Editor, Harvard Law Review
  • University of Oxford, M. Litt., 1995 (Marshall Scholar)
  • Harvard University, A.B., summa cum laude, 1993

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