Latham & Watkins’ appellate group handles a breadth of cases. One of the biggest last year involved the legal profession — specifically, convincing the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 18 that a death row inmate’s failure to meet a filing deadline shouldn’t be held against him because his attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell had essentially abandoned his appeal.
“It is quite important in recognizing that attorney conduct can be so egregious…that the inmate would not be held accountable for purposes of whether he defaulted on a claim of habeas corpus,” said former Solicitor General Gregory Garre, the firm’s appellate chief, of the 7-2 ruling in Maples v. Thomas.
“Obviously, Maples was an uphill battle all the way in terms of getting the Court to take the case and rule in our favor,” he said. “It’s not typical that the Supreme Court comes out in favor of the inmate in those circumstances.”
The firm’s focus on attorneys continued in an influential amicus brief Latham filed on behalf of New York University’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law in the dual cases Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper. The high court on March 21 ruled, 5-4, that criminal defendants could sue their attorneys for ineffectiveness of counsel for mishandling the plea negotiations.
Latham stepped in as appellate counsel in U.S. v. Home Concrete & Supply LLC and obtained a rare win against the Internal Revenue Service. The Supreme Court ruled on April 25 that the agency could not rely on an extended statute of limitations in pursuing actions against certain tax shelters. The 5-4 decision was unusual because Justice Anthony Kennedy dissented, and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion.
In Federal Trade Commission v. Lundbeck Inc., Latham’s J. Scott Ballenger took on the FTC in one of a growing number of antitrust enforcement actions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled on Aug. 19 that a drug manufacturer did not need to disgorge profits following a merger.
Latham argued two high-stakes patent disputes before the Federal Circuit: C.R. Bard v. W.L. Gore & Associates Inc., in which the court on Feb. 10 awarded $660 million (which has since grown to $873 million with compulsory license payments) to C.R. Bard, and the Aug. 18 summary judgment ruling for Affymetrix Inc. in Illumina v. Affymetrix. “The firm’s IP practice has grown significantly in the past couple of years, and I think our IP appellate practice has grown along with that,” Garre said. — Amanda Bronstad