HELP WANTED: PUBLIC INTEGRITY VACANCY
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer calls the public integrity section a “crown jewel” in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. spent more than a decade there as a trial attorney. But some might say the jewel could use a little polishing these days. Breuer, who heads the Criminal Division, announced on Oct. 21 that the department will conduct a nationwide search to replace William Welch II, who came under fire for his supervisory role in the botched prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.
Breuer, who called Welch a dedicated public servant, said his departure stems from a “mutual” decision. “Bill’s shoes will be hard to fill,” Breuer said. Welch will work as a prosecutor in Massachusetts.
Criminal defense lawyer Robert Trout of Washington’s Trout Cacheris, who said he holds Welch in high regard, suggested the department find a public integrity chief who’s been on both sides of the courtroom. “It will add a valuable perspective, and given what the department and the section have recently been through, it will enhance their credibility with the bench,” Trout said.
— Mike Scarcella
PLEADING FOR CHANGE
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the five-month-old U.S. Supreme Court decision that has become a thorn in the side of the plaintiffs’ bar, will get a Capitol Hill airing on Oct. 27. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold the first congressional hearing on the far-reaching May ruling, which raised the pleading standard for most civil complaints, making it more difficult to keep cases from being thrown out. The hearing isn’t likely to be the last time Congress weighs in on the matter. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) has sponsored legislation to return to an earlier pleading standard, and he wields the gavel in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. With the future of thousands of potential lawsuits at stake, expect a battle royale between lobbyists for the trial lawyers and the business community. — David Ingram
Four employee benefits lawyers have left McDermott Will & Emery for the Washington office of Proskauer Rose after a three-year wooing. The group, led by partner Paul Hamburger, includes senior counsel Todd Castleton, Eugene Holmes and James Napoli. Rory Albert, co-chairman of Proskauer’s employee benefits practice, said of the long courtship: “We’ve been referring to it as Operation Hamburger.” The reason for the delay? “Paul wanted to make the move badly, but the economic situation didn’t merit making them all partners,” Albert said. The team’s clients, who Albert says are largely coming with them, include Merrill Lynch and Time Warner. Bobby Burchfield, co-managing partner of McDermott’s Washington office, said, “We remain one of the largest employee benefits practices around.” — Jeff Jeffrey
BACK TO SCHOOL
Stephanie Tsacoumis, a former co-managing partner of the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has left the firm to become Georgetown University’s general counsel. Tsacoumis will start her new post on Nov. 2. She succeeds Jane Genster, a former Williams & Connolly counsel who will become senior counselor to Georgetown President John DeGioia. Tsacoumis had been a partner at Gibson Dunn since 1996, focusing on transactional and advisory matters, and has been an adjunct professor in the L.L.M. program at Georgetown University Law Center. — Jeff Jeffrey
ASKING FOR TROUBLE
Hell hath no fury like a Williams & Connolly partner scorned — particularly Brendan Sullivan Jr. Sullivan’s firm is taking a former client to court over $2 million in unpaid bills, saying the company reneged on a deal with the heavy-hitting defense lawyer. According to the suit, filed Oct. 16 at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, telecommunications company IDT Corp. owed $3 million for the firm’s work on a patent case. IDT agreed to make payments but allegedly stopped. The complaint quotes an IDT representative as saying the company “could harass Williams & Connolly for a couple of years and then settle.” Both sides declined comment. — Jordan Weissmann
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. made headlines on Oct. 20 when he wrote about the dangers of drunken driving. His colleagues denied review in Virginia v. Harris, a case that said police must witness dangerous driving themselves before they can pull over a driver. That gives drunken drivers “one free swerve,” Roberts complained in a dissent. He drew inspiration from Duke Law School’s appellate litigation clinic, which wrote an amicus brief supporting the state for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Adviser James Coleman Jr. said students quoted from studies about the effects of drunken driving, which Roberts then cited in his dissent. — Tony Mauro