Although he hasn't practiced law in over 30 years, newly minted vice presidential nominee Joe Biden remains a favorite son in the legal community.
Like all potential VPs, Joe Biden was thoroughly vetted by the Obama campaign, his relationships to lobbyists carefully analyzed. The Am Law Daily did some of its own vetting of the new nominee and the extensive legal ties that bind the Bidens. Older son Beau, 39, followed his father into politics, and is currently the attorney general of Delaware. Younger son Hunter is a partner at Oldaker, Biden & Belair, a Washington law and lobbying firm. Hunter stepped down from the firm's lobbying affiliate in 2006 in keeping with a Senate ethics bill requirement. His firm was retained as legal counsel to the Biden campaign and paid more than $57,000 this year.
The senator has long-standing relationships with law firms that donated to his congressional races and his two bids for the White House. Top contributors for his recent run were the Law Office of Peter Angelos in Baltimore, Md., which donated $156,250; SimmonsCooper in East Alton, Ill., contributed $146,600; Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones in Wilmington, Del., gave $145,625; and Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor in Wilmington gave $127,979.
Many of those firms have handled asbestos and bankruptcy cases, issues Biden has weighed in on from his seat on the judicial committee. Biden was a critic of the failed Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act of 2005, which would have trimmed returns on future litigation and hurt firms like SimmonsCooper, a billion-dollar asbestos practice which used son Beau's former law firm, Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Balick (now Bifferato Gentilotti), as local counsel to file asbestos suits in Delaware. Angelos' firm also represents asbestos clients, and Stargatt & Taylor has handled mass tort asbestos cases, representing court-appointed advocates for unknown future claimants -- individuals representing people who have been exposed to asbestos but have not yet become sick. On the other side of the asbestos issue, Pachulski Stang, a bankruptcy boutique, counsels companies that filed for Chapter 11 after being hit with a multitude of asbestos claims. A firm partner tells The Am Law Daily their support for Biden had little to do with his views on legal issues and more to do with his popularity in Delaware.
One of Biden's most controversial legal donors was Richard Scruggs, the Oxford, Miss., asbestos and tobacco plaintiffs attorney who was convicted of trying to bribe a federal judge. Scruggs, his family and his associates Timothy Balducci and Stephen Patterson (the two have pleaded guilty to bribery charges) gave $11,500 to Biden this year. (The Scruggs family also donated to Sen. John McCain's campaign.) In July, Biden's campaign cleaned house and donated the money to charity.
But the Biden campaign looked to family connections to dispose of the tainted funds, handing the money over to the National Prostate Cancer Coalition -- where son Hunter sits on the board of directors.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Timothy Balducci and Stephen Patterson are in prison. The two have plead guilty to bribery charges but have not yet been sentenced.