BROWN CHOSEN TO LEAD PRESS FREEDOM GROUP

First Amendment scofflaws, watch out — there’s a new sheriff in town. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press announced last week that the group had chosen Baker & Hostetler partner Bruce Brown as its new executive director.

Brown, a former reporter and longtime media lawyer, beat out more than 50 candidates for the job, where he’ll go to bat on behalf of journalists and media lawyers for greater access to public information. Before going into private practice, he covered federal courts for Legal Times (before it merged with The National Law Journal) and worked as a newsroom assistant to David Broder at The Washington Post.

He’ll take over from Lucy Dalglish, who left after 12 years as executive director to become dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Brown said the committee “is really a great platform because it is the one organization that speaks to the courts, to Congress, to the public, within the journalism community all about the legal issues that affect the free press.” He’ll remain of counsel to Baker after he assumes his new job in September. — Zoe Tillman 

CONVICTIONS OF SEVEN UPHELD IN D.C. MURDER

Attorneys for seven men convicted in the 1984 homicide of Catherine Fuller suffered a setback last week, but say their quest to prove their clients’ innocence is far from over. On August 6, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg denied petitions to vacate the convictions.

Weisberg, who heard arguments and testimony during a three-week hearing earlier this year, wrote that he didn’t believe the recanting witnesses who had come forward in recent years and that any alleged Brady violations weren’t enough for him to toss the convictions.

Miller & Chevalier partner Barry Pollack, who represented defendant Christopher Turner, said that he and his client were disappointed, but would be gearing up for an appeal. “He’s waited 27 years for justice in this case and is disappointed that he’ll have to wait a little longer,” Pollack said. “But [Turner] has no doubt that ultimately the appellate court will reverse this decision.”

Several attorneys representing other defendants confirmed that they planned to appeal, including Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project Executive Director Shawn Armbrust, who said she’s “optimistic.” The U.S. attorney’s office has praised Weisberg’s decision, saying that “justice has been done.” — Zoe Tillman 

DOJ’S NEW TOP WHISTLEBLOWER

The Obama administration has taken heat over its handling of whistleblowers, with some critics arguing the government isn’t doing enough to protect sources. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced a new position in the office of Inspector General Michael Horowitz: a whistleblower ombudsman. Horowitz in July brought on longtime federal prosecutor Robert Storch as his counselor. Horowitz said August 8 that Storch will lead the whistleblower effort, focusing on training and educating DOJ employees. Storch joins Horowitz’s office from his post as deputy criminal chief and counsel to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York. “History has shown that whistleblowers are very important sources of information,” said Storch, a prosecutor for 25 years who has worked on cases from public corruption to civil rights. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the position is “especially necessary” at DOJ, grappling with criticism over the Operation Fast and Furious gun scandal and allegations of whistleblower retaliation. “Putting the right person in this job will make an important, positive difference for whistleblowers,” he said. — Mike Scarcella 

END OF DAYS

The nomination of Caitlin Halligan was returned to the White House last week, ending her second bid for a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit before it could get started. Senate Republicans kiboshed her first bid in December with a filibuster, sending the nomination back to the White House when the year ended. President Barack Obama re-nominated her in June, when Senate Republicans were already talking about shutting down the confirmation process for appeals court judges until after the November election. This month, Republicans used a procedural quirk that allowed her nomination to expire over the summer recess. She hadn’t even had a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yet. Republicans had expressed concerns about her history with Second Amendment issues and questioned whether the D.C. Circuit caseload supported adding another judge. — Todd Ruger

CRUZ RISING

Fresh off his victory in the Texas Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, veteran U.S. Supreme Court advocate and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz will take to the stage of the Republican National Convention later this month as a headliner. Cruz, who upset Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst on July 31, is one of several speakers scheduled to address Republicans during their August 27-30 convention in Tampa, Fla., Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said last week. “I predict that we will see a new level of energy and commitment to reform at the Republican National Convention as we unite behind [presumptive GOP nominee] Governor Mitt Romney,” Cruz said in a written statement. A former clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Cruz has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court nine times. Of those, eight occurred when he was solicitor general of Texas. In 2008, he joined Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as head of its U.S. Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice. — Andrew Ramonas

UNTOUCHABLE ASSETS

Three months after prominent D.C. lawyer Frank Pearl died of lung cancer, TD Bank N.A. is accusing him of foul play. In a lawsuit filed on August 8 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the bank lobbed allegations that Pearl made fraudulent representations when applying for multimillion-dollar credit lines in recent years. Pearl, a lawyer who started his own private-equity firm in the 1990s, listed a litany of assets in his personal financial statement, but, according to TD Bank, those assets didn’t actually belong to him alone. After his death in May, according to the complaint, those assets — $65 million worth of art and antiques plus several pieces of property, among other things — transferred to his wife Geryl Pearl and couldn’t be touched by creditors to satisfy his debts. Geryl Pearl didn’t have an attorney listed as of press time and couldn’t be reached. The bank is being represented by Lawrence Gebhardt of Baltimore’s Gebhardt & Smith. He couldn’t be reached for comment. — Zoe Tillman

MOVING ON UP

Holland & Knight is settling into its new office in Washington’s Farragut Square neighborhood. Last week, the firm, which has about 150 lawyers in D.C., moved into 140,000 square feet of space at PNC Place, 800 17th St. N.W. In May 2011, the firm announced that it would be leaving its former office at 2099 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., which it had called home since 2000. Paul Kiernan, executive partner for the firm’s Washington office, described the new digs as a “world-class office building.” He said the new space is more open, has more collaboration space and room for growth. Kiernan declined to comment on the price per square foot or the length of the lease for the new space. However, Arent Fox’s new building, currently under construction two blocks away, is priced at $75 per square foot. — Matthew Huisman