Catherine Hancock Dorsey is a senior appellate attorney and shareholder in the Washington D.C. offices of Baron & Budd. She brings almost 17 years of experience at the Department of Justice to Baron & Budd’s robust opioid practice and has briefed and argued an array of complex cases in her lengthy career. At Baron & Budd, Ms. Dorsey handles, advises, and strategizes on appellate and other issues. “I am excited to bring my appellate expertise to Baron & Budd to help strategize and be forward-thinking in our trial and appellate briefing. It is especially exhilarating to dig into an emerging area of the law with respect to opioid litigation.”
As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Ms. Dorsey majored in Russian Studies, which happened to coincide with the collapse of the Soviet Union. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree Magna Cum Laude in 1996, she worked for the Academy of Educational Development and the International Research & Exchanges Board, two nonprofit organizations which, at the time, were both engaged in educational and technical training programs for students and professionals from the former Soviet bloc countries, including on topics such as development of the rule of law. From her interest in watching Russia begin to rebuild its legal system from the vestiges of the old Soviet legal structure, Ms. Dorsey became keenly interested in our own rule of law. She headed off to law school, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2001 with her Juris Doctor and a concurrent Master of Science degree in Foreign Service.
During her time at Georgetown, Ms. Dorsey worked as a summer associate at the U.S. Department of Defense in the office of General Counsel, International Affairs, sparking her initial interest in what would eventually become an almost two-decade relationship with the Department of Justice. She also served as Articles Editor on the Georgetown Law Journal and as research assistant to Professor Viet Dinh, whose distinguished expertise lay in law and economics and constitutional law.
After graduating from law school, Ms. Dorsey spent a year clerking for the Honorable Juan R. Torruella on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in San Juan, Puerto Rico. During her time in Puerto Rico, Ms. Dorsey delighted in her close proximity to the beach and savored Puerto Rican food (mofongo is still a favorite), as well as the warm and welcoming culture. She was fascinated by local politics, which revolved around Puerto Rico’s status as a United States territory and the issue of whether Puerto Rico should seek to become a state.
In 2002, Catherine Dorsey joined the U.S. Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honors Program, where she spent almost seventeen years arguing complex and significant statutory, administrative, immigration, tort, and employment discrimination cases before the federal courts of appeals. As part of the Civil Division’s Appellate Staff, she argued cases which dealt with matters such as the Freedom of Information Act, national security, and Bivens actions, which are special ‘implied causes of action’ created by the Supreme Court to allow private individuals to sue federal employees for constitutional violations. Ms. Dorsey presented more than forty oral arguments on behalf of the Government, including arguments before every United States Circuit Court of Appeal.
As an attorney on the Appellate Staff, Ms. Dorsey served as lead counsel for the government in scores of cases, representing a diverse array of federal agencies. In addition to consulting and coordinating with client agencies and trial attorneys to develop the Government’s legal strategy and defenses, she drafted numerous Supreme Court merits briefs, and she also served for a term on the Appellate hiring committee.
Ms. Dorsey joined the Justice Department right after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. As a result, she spent a number of years embroiled in litigation to assist the United States in its defense against terrorism, including litigation involving the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Ms. Dorsey found this litigation a captivating mix of law and history, as many of the legal issues were ones that had not been addressed by courts since World War II, and needed to be re-examined in light of novel concerns about modern-day warfare and terrorism. One of her most interesting and important cases was defending the Government against a First Amendment challenge seeking disclosure of classified government videos depicting a Guantanamo detainee.
In 2017, Ms. Dorsey took advantage of opportunities within the Department of Justice to broaden her experience by serving as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General, where she managed and coordinated some of the Civil Division’s high-profile litigation. In addition to drafting filings and arguing motions in District Court, she developed litigation strategy and coordinated closely with DOJ leadership, the Office of the Solicitor General, and White House Counsel. She saw the Counsel position as an opportunity to work closely with incoming DOJ leadership at a time when the administration was short-staffed and needed help from long-term employees who “knew the ropes.”
Moving to the private sector in 2019 was a decision Catherine Dorsey embraced as a prime opportunity to use her significant skills to make a worthy impact and serve the public in a new way. “Joining Baron & Budd is a great fit for me, where I can apply my legal writing and reasoning skills to the opioid epidemic and its associated litigation.”
When Catherine Dorsey is not immersed in legal tomes or reading novels in their native languages, such as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons. She likes to run, finding the rhythmic pounding on the pavement and solitary outside time to be a soothing counterpoint to the frenetic pace of a busy law practice. She is also a certified scuba diver who relishes the contemplative tranquility of life at ten fathoms in places like Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.