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Education & Honors
  • 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
Bar & Court Admissions
  • District of Columbia and Kansas
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • All United States Courts of Appeals
  • United States District Courts for the District of Columbia and Kansas
  Kannon K. Shanmugam
TEL: 202-434-5050
FAX: 202-434-5029
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Williams & Connolly LLP
725 Twelfth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005


Kannon Shanmugam leads Williams & Connolly’s Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice.

Mr. Shanmugam has argued 16 cases before the Supreme Court—recently breaking Edward Bennett Williams' record for the most by a lawyer in the firm's history.  He is scheduled to argue three cases before the Court during the 2014-2015 term.  Mr. Shanmugam has been recognized by numerous publications as one of the nation’s leading Supreme Court and appellate advocates.  In a recent profile, The National Law Journal praised him for his “confident manner and elegant elocution” before the Court.  In ranking him as a notable appellate practitioner, Chambers USA described him as an “extraordinary advocate” who is “recommended by clients for his fresh perspective and energetic approach.”

Mr. Shanmugam has handled significant matters before the Supreme Court in a number of areas, including securities, patent, antitrust, and bankruptcy litigation.  Most recently, he argued on behalf of the defendants in Omnicare v. Laborers District Council, on the actionability of statements of opinion under the federal securities laws.  On behalf of the United States, he successfully argued Tellabs v. Makor Rights, which involved the standard for pleading state of mind in securities-fraud actions, and Weyerhaeuser v. Ross-Simmons, which concerned the standard for predatory-bidding claims under the federal antitrust laws.

Mr. Shanmugam has also argued some of the highest-profile criminal cases decided by the Supreme Court in the last few years.  He recently presented oral argument on behalf of the defendant in Maryland v. King, the landmark case on the constitutionality of DNA testing of arrestees that one justice described as “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this Court has heard in decades.”  In addition, Mr. Shanmugam successfully represented a Louisiana death-row inmate in Smith v. Cain, in which the Court ruled by an 8-1 vote that the district attorney’s office had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by failing to disclose favorable statements made by the key eyewitness before trial.

Beyond the Supreme Court, Mr. Shanmugam has argued dozens of appeals and dispositive motions in federal and state courts across the country.  Mr. Shanmugam has argued in every federal court of appeals, including the Federal Circuit. Among his recent victories, Mr. Shanmugam successfully represented Pfizer in a series of appeals on the question whether the consumer of a generic drug can sue the manufacturer of the corresponding brand-name drug on the so-called theory of “innovator liability.”  Mr. Shanmugam is currently representing AstraZeneca in its appeal to the First Circuit from class certification in the Nexium antitrust litigation, and NASDAQ in its appeal to the Second Circuit from the denial of a motion to dismiss claims arising from Facebook's initial public offering.

Mr. Shanmugam also represents clients in disputes involving the federal and state governments, including challenges to agency regulations and actions.  He is currently representing the American Insurance Association and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies in their challenge to the validity of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s disparate-impact regulations.  He successfully represented the Outdoor Advertising Association of America in defense of the Department of Transportation’s guidance concerning electronic billboards.

Mr. Shanmugam joined Williams & Connolly LLP 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.

Born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Mr. Shanmugam received his A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1993; his M. Litt. from the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar; and his J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was executive editor of the Harvard Law Review.  Mr. Shanmugam clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and for Judge J. Michael Luttig on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Lawdragon magazine has named Mr. Shanmugam one of the 500 leading lawyers in America, and Washingtonian magazine has selected him as one of the top lawyers practicing before the Supreme Court and as one of 20 people in Washington to watch.  The Associated Press featured him in a story on “The Supreme Court of Tomorrow.”  In addition, before Mr. Shanmugam turned 40, he was listed by The National Law Journal as one of the top 40 lawyers under 40 in Washington and also as one of the top 40 minority lawyers under 40 in the country.

Mr. Shanmugam is the co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Committee.  He is also the past president of the Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court, the principal bench-bar organization for appellate judges and lawyers in the Washington area. He is a member of the D.C. Circuit’s Advisory Committee on Procedures. 

Mr. Shanmugam is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches a class on Supreme Court advocacy.  In the community, he serves as chair of the board of trustees of Thurgood Marshall Academy, a public charter high school in Southeast Washington.

Click here to read a recent interview with Mr. Shanmugam in The National Law Journal. Click here to read a recent interview with Mr. Shanmugam in Lawdragon magazine. 

Cases argued by Kannon Shanmugam in the Supreme Court (click on the case name to listen to the oral argument)

Omnicare v. Laborers District Council, No. 13-435 (argued Nov. 3, 2014)

What a plaintiff must prove in order to establish that a statement of opinion is actionable under the federal securities laws.

Warger v. Shauers, ___ S. Ct. ___ (Dec. 9, 2014)

Whether evidence from jury deliberations is admissible to prove dishonesty during jury selection.

Clark v. Rameker134 S. Ct. 2242 (2014)

Whether inherited individual retirement accounts are exempt from an individual’s bankruptcy estate.

Maryland v. King133 S. Ct. 1958 (2013)  

Whether the Fourth Amendment permits the warrantless collection and analysis of DNA from a person who has been arrested for, but not convicted of, a criminal offense.

Bailey v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 1031 (2013)

Whether police officers may detain an individual incident to the execution of a search warrant when the individual has left the scene before the warrant is executed.

Smith v. Cain, 132 S. Ct. 627 (2012) 

Whether the prosecution violated the defendant’s right to due process by failing to disclose favorable statements made by several eyewitnesses before trial.

Merck & Co. v. Reynolds, 559 U.S. 633 (2010)

What a plaintiff must know in order to trigger the running of the statute of limitations for federal securities-fraud claims.

Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, 556 U.S. 163 (2009)

Whether a state court validly enjoined the State of Hawaii from selling public lands held in trust for Native Hawaiians.

Riley v. Kennedy, 553 U.S. 406 (2008)

Whether a change precipitated by a state-court decision must be precleared under the Voting Rights Act.

United States v. Rodriquez, 553 U.S. 377 (2008)

Whether, in determining whether a prior offense qualifies as a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act, a court should take into account the fact that the defendant was subject to a higher sentence as a repeat offender.

Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 552 U.S. 214 (2008)

Whether the Federal Tort Claims Act permits a federal prisoner to sue for damages for lost personal property.

Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308 (2007)

What a plaintiff must plead in a federal securities-fraud action in order to satisfy the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s requirement of a “strong inference” of the necessary state of mind.

Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Ross-Simmons Hardwood Lumber Co., 549 U.S. 312 (2007)

What a plaintiff must prove in order to establish a claim of predatory bidding under the federal antitrust laws.

Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573 (2006)

Whether a constitutional challenge to a method of execution must be brought in a petition for habeas corpus.

Oregon v. Guzek, 546 U.S. 517 (2006)

Whether a defendant who has been convicted of capital murder has a constitutional right to present alibi evidence at sentencing.

Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93 (2005)

Whether officers conducting a search of a house may detain an occupant of the house in handcuffs and question her about her immigration status.