The Supreme Court is a tradition-encrusted place—white quills are still placed every morning on the counsel’s desks, exactly as was done in the 19th century. Awesome is the overused word that comes to mind.

Kristin Shapiro, a lawyer with BakerHostetler and an IWF Senior Fellow, will be at the counsel’s table when the Court hears arguments for Moore v. United States. Kristin has helped prepare for Supreme Court arguments before, but this is her first time to occupy a coveted seat at the counsel’s table.

Andrew M. Grossman of BakerHostetler, representing plaintiffs Charles and Kathleen Moore, will argue the case before the Supreme Court. What the Court decides will have a profound effect on the way the federal government is allowed to tax citizens. 

As an attorney for the Moores, Kristin declines to publicly discuss the details of the pending case. But the Wall Street Journal explained that the case involves “the legality of a form of wealth tax that is the long-time dream of the political left.” 

The problem for the Left is the Sixteenth Amendment, which only authorizes Congress to tax “incomes.” Most people don’t think of a person’s “wealth” (i.e., the total value of a person’s property) as “income,” at least not until the person sells their property and “realizes” an economic gain. But, in the Moores’ case, the Ninth Circuit ruled that “realization of income is not a constitutional requirement.” If the Supreme Court affirms that ruling, the Wall Street Journal explains that we should “prepare for a raid on much of the private wealth and savings of Americans.” Fingers crossed the Moores win!

Kristin grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, on the Kansas side, the daughter of an elementary school principal mother and a father who was a computer programmer. She graduated from Blue Valley North High School and went on to New York University. “I really loved Broadway,” she says, “and so I wanted to go to New York. I went to NYU. I graduated from NYU in three years. I considered myself a liberal. And so, you’ll shudder when I tell you that I majored in sociology and gender and sexuality studies.”

Shudder. So, what happened?

“What happened is that I worked for two years after NYU and then I went to law school. I’d always envisioned going to law school,” Kristin says. “I was a debater in high school and obviously, I was not going to make any money with my college majors. I went to Northwestern. It was wonderful. And what happened was I had a slew of professors from all across the ideological spectrum, including conservative professors. One professor who sticks out in my mind is Steve Calabresi. I had him for constitutional law. He founded The Federalist Society, which is the mecca for conservatives in the legal world.

“I went in thinking, ‘Oh, I’m excited—and I’m open-minded enough to be excited to have him even though I knew he was conservative and I considered myself a liberal.’ But I also thought, ‘I’m going to disagree with everything he says.’ But I just sat there and I listened and I thought, and the disagreement never really came.” She read opinions from Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, eagerly expecting to debunk them. But that didn’t happen either. 

“I can’t say I walked away from Calabresi’s class completely considering myself a conservative, though I certainly did walk away thinking ‘Gosh, the conservatives have a good point on a lot of these things. Maybe I’m liberal as a policy matter, but conservative in terms of my interpretation of the law, or something like that?’ Once your mind opens, you become receptive. You start thinking, ‘Well, gosh, you know, what’s the other side of this thing?’ You stop uncritically accepting all of the positions that you had and the positions of the political party you considered yourself aligned with, and it just sort of unravels from there. And that’s what happened to me.”

Kristin’s field of expertise includes complex constitutional, statutory, and ethical matters. She has served as attorney-adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice and as Assistant General Counsel for the House of Representatives and represented Fortune 500 corporations in private practice. 

She has been a Senior Fellow at IWF since 2018, where she created a plan to provide parental paid leave in a way that the government could afford without raising taxes or borrowing. The parent would collect Social Security while on leave but agree to take Social Security a little later to offset the cost. Kristin and American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew Biggs called the plan “a fiscally responsible opportunity to help parents and children” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. 

“The Left immediately attacked the plan,” Kristin recalls, “because it was not in their political interest to pass any sort of compromise legislation. It’s not a perfectly conservative plan and it’s not a perfectly liberal plan. It was a compromise. The reaction made me realize that the Left has no appetite for compromise.” The experience also cemented her notion of herself as a conservative—but not an unquestioning one.

She considered herself a liberal and majored in sociology and gender and sexuality studies. Then she went to law school.

“When you come to conservatism later as I did,” she says, “it’s easier to still keep a critical thinking hat on and not knee-jerk accept anything that Republicans say. My husband makes fun of me but I do listen to NPR still. Many times, it’s very aggravating because I can immediately think of the argument conservatives would make, and they are unaware of the other side.” That husband is Ilya Shapiro, whom she met when a law school friend offered her a blind date and gave her three choices. Ilya was one.

Of course, she checked him out. “Well, so I had a link to his Cato biography,” she confesses. “What appealed to me about Ilya is that he had this very interesting background. He was born in the Soviet Union, but immigrated to Canada when he was young, was fluent in six languages, had lived in so many places, and had gone to Princeton and University of Chicago, London School of Economics. He had even beenon the Colbert Report, and I was a big fan of The Colbert Report! I thought, ‘Well, at the very least the date is going to be interesting.’ Everyone’s interesting in their own way, but Ilya just really stood out. So, I chose Ilya. And, as Ilya says, I’m stuck with that decision ever since.”

And she was right—Illya Shapiro is interesting—so interesting that he made headlines last year with his is on again off again relationship with Georgetown University. Shapiro had been hired away from Cato by the Georgetown University Law Center. Before he even reported for his first day on the new job, there were shrill calls for Georgetown to rescind the offer because of a tweet.

Ilya’s tweet concerned President Joe Biden’s best choice for a SupremeCourt vacancy. “Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart,” Shapiro tweeted. “Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?” The outrage! Georgetown responded by announcing an investigation of Shapiro.

“I’ve always been a very pragmatic person,” Kristin says. “So I knew I had to put one foot in front of the other, keep on walking, and deal with the situation as it comes in. I would say the hardest part was the first weekend where there was a lot of uncertainty—whether my husband was going to have a job on Monday was in serious question.” 

Ilya, fortunately, was put on administrative leave with pay. After a four-month investigation, he was cleared but only for the technical consideration that he was not yet working for Georgetown when he made the infamous tweet. He was reinstated at Georgetown but on second thought decided to quit, writing in the Wall Street Journal that he would feel that he had a target on his back if he remained at a university that had “yielded to the progressive mob, abandoned free speech, and created a hostile environment.” He was immediately hired by the Manhattan Institute.

Kristin and Ilya live in an 1860s house in Virginia, which they’ve fixed up, with their four children—two boys in second grade and kindergarten and one-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. Her parents moved to Virginia to help and now live on the premises. 

“One of the things that I’ve learned from this is how important family is, especially when you are raising young kids,” Kristin muses, “and it’s something that I think a lot of people in my cohort don’t value enough. I guess I didn’t either until I had children. I’m so lucky that my parents sacrificed, and they decided to move to be near us, because having them here is just amazing on so many different levels. I now realize that [if] they had wanted to stay in Kansas, we’d have had this typical relationship where they would have been in Kansas, we would have been in Washington D.C., and we would have sent our kids to daycare. It would have been really hard and we would have seen my parents, you know, a few times a year, maybe on holidays. That just is not enough for me at this point in life.”

What an evolution for our favorite gender studies graduate!

Today, Kristin seems to have what many we call “it all,” so what’s next? 

“Well, I think when people describe someone as having ‘it all,’ they’re actually just talking about someone who has a lot of balls in the air. And that person probably constantly feels as if she’s about to drop one of them—I know that’s how I feel,” Kristin says. “Right now I’m really in the thick of what people call ‘survival mode’—I’m trying to do my best for my family, for my law firm, and for organizations like IWF. I can’t claim to have a master plan for my life. Each morning I just get up and put one foot in front of the other, but that strategy (or lack thereof) has led me on a pretty interesting journey so far.”

Whatever comes next for Kristin, we are fortunate that this creative and inquisitive thinker has embraced the conservatism cause as her own.