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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 heads Williams & Connolly LLP’s Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice.

In naming Mr. Shanmugam in 2015 as one of the 500 leading lawyers in America, Lawdragon magazine described him as “inspiring and in demand.”  He has argued 17 cases before the Supreme Court, recently breaking Edward Bennett Williams' record for the most Supreme Court arguments by a lawyer in the firm's history.

Mr. Shanmugam has been recognized by numerous publications as one of the nation’s leading Supreme Court and appellate advocates.  The American Lawyer recently lauded Mr. Shanmugam for his “amazing track record.”  In a profile, The National Law Journal praised him for his “confident manner and elegant elocution” before the Court, stating that he “never seems to get flustered.”  Legal 500 described him as “a graceful writer and a very fluid and polished oral advocate” who “understands the need to make a brief tell a compelling story.”

Mr. Shanmugam has handled significant matters before the Supreme Court in a number of areas, including patent, antitrust, and bankruptcy litigation.  In particular, he has argued several of the most significant securities cases heard by the Supreme Court in recent years, including Omnicare v. Laborers District Council, on the actionability of statements of opinion under the federal securities laws; Merck v. Reynolds, on the statute of limitations for securities-fraud claims; and Tellabs v. Makor Rights, on the standard for pleading state of mind in securities-fraud actions.

Mr. Shanmugam has also argued a series of high-profile criminal cases in the Supreme Court.  He 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, he 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.  He has argued in every federal court of appeals, including the Federal Circuit.  Among his recent arguments, he successfully represented the bond trader Jesse Litvak in a closely watched appeal from his convictions for securities fraud and other offenses.  He is currently representing Bank of America in its appeal in the Second Circuit from a $1.3 billion judgment for civil penalties under FIRREA, and AstraZeneca in an appeal in the Federal Circuit concerning personal jurisdiction in pharmaceutical patent infringement cases.

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 is also representing the Outdoor Advertising Association of America in defense of the Department of Transportation’s guidance concerning electronic billboards.

Mr. Shanmugam joined Williams & Connolly in 2008 after serving as an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice.  He is the only lawyer to join the firm directly as a partner in the last 30 years.  Born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, he 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.  He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and for Judge J. Michael Luttig on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

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 Advisory Committee on Procedures for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Washingtonian magazine has named Mr. Shanmugam one of its 20 people in Washington to watch.  He has taught Supreme Court advocacy as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.  In the community, he serves as chair of the board of trustees of Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter school in Southeast Washington that is one of the city’s highest-performing public high schools.

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.  Click here to read a recent interview with Mr. Shanmugam in Harvard Law Today.

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

Coleman v. Tollefson, 135 S. Ct. 1759 (2015)

Whether, under the “three strikes” provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit counts as a strike before it becomes final on appeal.

Omnicare v. Laborers District Council, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015)

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

Warger v. Shauers, 135 S. Ct. 521 (2014)

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

Clark v. Rameker, 134 S. Ct. 2242 (2014)

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

Maryland v. King, 133 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.