Capital Heights Scarinci Hollenbeck has expanded into Washington, D.C., with help from an insider: Moe Vela, a former adviser to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore. He joins the Lyndhurst firm as a partner in regulatory and public policy law.
Vela was with the public policy and regulation group at Holland & Knight in Washington, D.C., from March 2010 until June 2012, when he left to focus on a global business development consulting firm with domestic, South American and Latin American clients.
About four months ago, Vela met partner Donald Scarinci through a mutual acquaintance, Fernando Pinguelo, who in April became head of Scarinci's new cybersecurity and data-protection practice. Vela and Scarinci kept in touch and found they have common clients, says Vela, who started around April 20.
Vela says he was drawn to the firm's 46-lawyer size. Holland & Knight, with more than 900 attorneys, "was too big to me," says Vela. "There's a rigidity to a larger firm. It becomes formulaic. … They're stuck in old-fashioned business models."
Managing partner Kenneth Hollenbeck says the firm is not considering a lobbying practice but is open to expanding the Washington office. Vela will handle transactional work including international trade and cross-border investment for clients in oil and gas, heavy construction and other industries and team up with investment banking lawyers in the firm's Manhattan office. He will also continue to do consulting.
No Boston Aftershock Federal prosecutors filed papers Thursday to rebut claims that the sentencing of two would-be terrorists on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing was affected by that event.
Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to travel to Somalia to join terrorist group al-Shabaab and to commit murder on its behalf, were handed sentences of 22 years and 20 years, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise on April 15.
They allege in court papers that Assistant U.S. Attorneys L. Judson Welle and Andrew Kogan, upon learning of the bombing through a note passed to them, promptly shifted their argument to emphasize the need to deter domestic terrorism.
Welle and Kogan's response, filed Thursday, says they made that argument before they got the note and in any event, deterrence is a factor to be considered in sentencing. They call the idea that Debevoise, who filed a 43-page statement of reasons for the sentence, was influenced by the bombing "as false as it is sensational" and "thoroughly manufactured out of thin air." They also point to Debevoise's own statement in an April 18 letter that "the Boston events had nothing to do with the sentence I imposed." He has said he was made aware of the bombing before the sentencing.
Defense counsel Stanley L. Cohen of New York, for Alessa, and James Patton of Woolcock & Patton in Livingston, for Almonte, did not return a call.
High-Priced Justice The U.S. legal system is the world's most expensive, costing about one-and-a-half times more than the Eurozone average, according to a study released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
The study, by NERA Economic Consulting, compared liability costs as a percentage of a country's gross domestic product. The 13 countries included in the study have similar levels of regulation and legal protection, leading analysts to conclude that higher costs could be attributed to more frequent and/or costly claims.
The U.S. costs were about 1.7 percent of GDP. Countries on the low end of the range the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal had costs around 0.4 percent. Legal liability costs in the U.S. were found to be about 50 percent more than costs in the U.K.
ILR promotes reform to the civil justice system. Its president, Lisa Rickard, says excessive litigation is putting U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage globally. Lawsuits create high costs for businesses, she says, and they affect consumers, employees and the overall economy.
"The worse a litigation system becomes in a country, the more companies think twice about whether or not to do business there, to locate there, to expand there," says Rickard.
A Reuters article Thursday quoted antitrust plaintiff lawyers Douglas Richards and Michael Eisenkraft, who counter the ILR survey's conclusions. Their central argument is that many of the pro-business procedures, "made on an ad hoc basis rather than through a formal rule process, have compounded the problems of cost and delay that they often were ostensibly intended to solve."
Tougher on Texting A bill on Gov. Chris Christie's desk would hike fines for texting or phoning while driving without a hands-free device, with local governments and the state splitting the revenue.
The bill would increase the present $100 fine to a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $400 for a first offense, $400 to $600 for a second offense, and $600 to $800 for a subsequent offense. It also would allow a judge to suspend a third-time offender's license for 90 days. Third and subsequent offenders would get three motor vehicle penalty points.
The Assembly passed the bill, S-69, in a 73-2 vote in March, but amended it to say that 50 percent of the fines collected would go to the town and county where the violation occurred, the rest to the Motor Vehicle Commission for an education program on the dangers of texting or phoning while driving.
The state Senate last Monday went along, in a 35-0 vote, with an Assembly amendment.
"We need laws on the books that will act as a real deterrent to this risky behavior," said a statement by Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, who sponsored the bill with Fred Madden, D-Gloucester.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak declines to comment until the bill has been reviewed by the governor's counsel.
By David Gialanella, Mary Pat Gallagher, Shannon Green (Corporate Counsel) and Michael Booth