FOR BUSH, TENSION OVER SUPREME COURT, DOJ

It turns out that some of former President George W. Bush’s tensest “Decision Points,” as his memoir is titled, involved the U.S. Supreme Court and the Justice Department. Who knew?

Bush recounts the brief 2005 candidacy of White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. He had picked her over appeals judge Priscilla Owen. Clearly still miffed at conservatives who “condescendingly” criticized Miers, Bush wrote, “She is not glib. She is not fancy,” but would have made a “fine justice.” After Miers withdrew, Bush still wanted a woman, but “I could not find any as qualified as Sam Alito.”

At Justice, Bush confirmed a near-revolt in 2004 when he approved a surveillance program that department officials would not defend. “I was about to witness the largest mass resignation in modern presidential history.” Bush backed down and Deputy Attorney General James Comey and FBI director Robert Mueller dropped their threats to quit. — Tony Mauro

IN INDIA WITH OBAMA: HISTORIC, YES. FUN?  

William Cook, chairman of the DLA Piper’s global communications practice, joined the presidential delegation to India last week in what he called “an amazingly productive” trip.

The firm is a member of the U.S.-India Business Council, an advocacy organization representing global Indian companies and U.S. companies that are investing in India.

Cook said the council brought together senior executives from both countries during the trip and he also was able to meet with local firms that DLA Piper works with throughout the country.

Discussions to allow American and other foreign law firms to operate in India were dropped from the delegation’s agenda in order to focus on job-creation issues, he and fellow delegation member Shahana Basu Kanodia, Boston partner in Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, reported.

“The Obama visit to India was truly historic and was one of the most well-planned and superbly executed trips of its kind I have ever seen,” said Cook, who has been to India more than 25 times.

As for fun on the agenda, Cook said, “Very rarely do I have time for anything other than business.” — Marcia Coyle

REPLACING REID

Now open: A new slot on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. With the April 11, 2011, retirement of Judge Inez Smith Reid pending, the court has begun looking for a successor to take her place on the bench. D.C.’s Judicial Nomination Commission must send the names of three possible nominations to President Obama 60 days before Reid steps down. To be considered for the judgeship, applicants must be active members of the D.C. Bar, have lived in Washington for at least 90 days, and cannot have served on the D.C. Tenure Commission or the JNC for two years prior to being nominated. Reid, who has been the court’s most prolific opinion writer, was nominated to the court in 1995 after a long career as federal government lawyer and in private practice in the District. — Jeff Jeffrey

A FRAUD FOCUS

In private practice, Ronald Machen Jr. specialized in fraud cases, and now as the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia he wants to strengthen his office’s fraud fighting. Machen has divided the Fraud and Public Corruption Section into two units to allow prosecutors to prioritize. Deb Connor is now section chief, Steve Durham is running the public corruption unit and Matthew Solomon leads the fraud team. “When you specialize, you become more efficient,” Machen said. Machen wants fraud prosecutors to focus on the mortgage, health care and securities cases in the District. He called Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases a “major growth area.” As Main Justice bolsters its fraud section with more line attorneys, Machen doesn’t anticipate a turf war for cases. “We are on the same team,” he said. — Mike Scarcella

NOW IN CHARGE

“No rubber stamp.” That’s how Clifford Chance partner Wendy Wysong describes herself as she takes on a formidable new task: making sure Xe Services (formerly Blackwater Worldwide) behaves for the next three years. In August, Xe agreed to pay $42 million to settle charges it violated the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations while providing services abroad to the U.S. government. As part of the consent decree with the State Department, a special compliance officer was required. Wysong landed the job after responding to a request for proposal. She estimates she’ll spend five to 40 hours a week monitoring Xe. “It’s a comfortable role for me,” said Wysong, formerly the highest career official overseeing export control enforcement of sensitive dual-use items at the Commerce Department. — Jenna Greene

BIG CITY BLUES

How are major cities like Washington faring in terms of lawyer headcount? According to the NLJ 250, The National Law Journal‘s annual survey of the nation’s 250 largest firms, it’s been a rough ride. (We published the survey in our last issue and continued to analyze results at nlj.com/nlj250). Of 15 major cities canvassed, 12 had lower headcounts. The city with the biggest losses was Atlanta, which dropped 7.8% of its NLJ 250 lawyers. D.C. continues to rank as the second-largest big-firm market in the country, with 13,004 lawyers at NLJ 250 firms. That’s down by 1.6%. (Among the NLJ 250, 161 have a D.C. office.) New York ranked first, with 21,520 attorneys. — Leigh Jones

TALE OF THE TAPE

A nearly three-year federal criminal investigation into the CIA’s destruction of Guantánamo Bay detainee-interrogation videotapes culminated on Nov. 9 in a 72-word public statement. A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman said federal prosecutor John Durham‘s “exhaustive” review did not warrant criminal charges against any CIA official. Hogan Lovells partner Robert Bennett, who represented former CIA officer Jose Rodriguez Jr., said DOJ made “the right decision based on the facts and the law.” One vocal advocate for Guantánamo prisoners, David Remes, a former Covington & Burling partner, called the DOJ announcement depressing. “Someone should be held accountable for destroying these tapes, but it looks like that will never happen,” Remes said. “We have crimes, but no criminals.” — Mike Scarcella