A LIFELIKE ‘SCRIM’ REPLICATES COURT’S FACADE

Passersby did a double take when they glanced at the U.S. Supreme Court last week. It is sporting a new face, in the form of a “scrim” — a lightweight fabric imprinted with a full-size photo of the court’s famous façade. The remarkably realistic replica covers the scaffolding that surrounds the real façade, as part of a marble repair project.

So why the imprinted scrim, when no scrim at all, or a plain white scrim would have worked? “The scrim allows the building’s iconic façade to remain visible to tourists and visitors during cleaning and restoration work,” a court spokeswoman said. Judith Resnik, co-author of a book that discusses the symbolism of courthouse design, said without the scrim, the words “Equal Justice Under Law” would be obscured by the scaffolding. “Seeing the words through the scrim reminds us that stone, like text, and practice, is fragile, and requires recommitment and repair.”

The project stems from a 2005 incident in which a piece of marble fell from the façade, nearly hitting a tourist. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. called it the moment the court “lost its marbles.” — Tony Mauro

FEDS, NEW YORK TEAM UP AGAINST JPMORGAN

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman‘s lawsuit targeting residential mortgage-backed securities abuses was filed on behalf of New York residents. But the state attorney general had a high-profile venue to pitch it: the U.S. Justice Department’s headquarters in Washington.

Top DOJ officials, including Tony West, the acting associate attorney general, announced the state civil action on October 2 at a press conference at Main Justice. DOJ teamed up with Schneiderman’s office on the suit, filed in New York’s trial-level supreme court against JPMorgan Chase & Co. unit Bear Stearns & Co.

“We all have different statutes. We all have different areas of authority and responsibility,” West said in response to a question about the decision to file the suit in state court. “We are much more effective, much more efficient when we can…share information, share evidence and bring cases where they’re going to have the most impact.”

Debevoise & Plimpton white-collar litigation partners Andrew Ceresney and Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for New York, are lead counsel for JPMorgan. The firm declined to comment. A JPMorgan spokesman said the company will fight the misconduct charges. — Mike Scarcella

ROMNEY’S DODD-FRANK DEBATED

During the October 3 presidential debate with President Barack Obama, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act designates some banks as too big to fail, and that it hurts community banks and the overall economy. “It’s the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks I’ve ever seen,” Romney said. That assertion sparked its own debate in legal circles. “I thought Governor Romney was grossly wrong in his description of the law,” said Michael Barr, a University of Michigan Law School professor who spent time turning reform ideas into legislation as assistant secretary for financial institutions for the Treasury Department. Barr said the law actually winds down those big financial institutions if they get into trouble. David Skeel, a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor who wrote a book about Dodd-Frank, said the “kiss” statement was a “significant exaggeration,” but that the law did reinforce the advantage that big banks have in the market. “The argument it didn’t reign in the big banks and hurt the community banks is a good argument,” he said. Romney said if elected he would repeal and replace Dodd-Frank. — Todd Ruger

OVERDUE HONOR

For more than 15 years, Elouise Cobell and her lawyers fought the federal government over its botched administration of millions of dollars in trust accounts held for Native Americans. President Barack Obama and top U.S. Justice Department officials heralded the $3.4 billion settlement, announced in late 2009, as a milestone in repairing federal relations with Indians. Now, the government has taken another step: naming a floor in the new federal courthouse in Billings, Mont., in Cobell’s honor. Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe in Montana, died last October. Federal court officials, including Thomas Hogan, the former chief judge of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, participated in the formal dedication of the new courthouse. “No one has done so much for so many individual Indians, historically the most vulnerable and abused people in this country,” said Washington lawyer Dennis Gingold, a lead attorney in the Cobell class action. “Elouise dedicated her life to justice and against all odds and in defiance of conventional wisdom achieved the largest settlement with the United States government in American history.” — Mike Scarcella

MYSTERY MAN

For several hours on October 4, an unidentified man in a dark suit was the face of more than three dozen top law firms. Gone from the home pages of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Covington & Burling and Baker & McKenzie, among others, were the usual links to their law firm details. Instead, there were links that included: “In Pain? Get Relief Now” and “Find Injury Attorney,” next to the mystery man. One North Interactive LLC, which provides hosting services to the firm websites, said in a client alert that the incident was the result of an “oversight in renewing a critical domain name” in its recent transition to becoming an independent business. Jen Bullett, a One North Interactive spokeswoman, wrote that none of the websites were hacked and security wasn’t breached. “We acknowledge that this outage puts our clients in a very challenging spot and are working collectively as we speak to address all issues,” Bullett wrote. — Andrew Ramonas

GOOD WORKS

Two Washington attorneys and a D.C.-area law firm were honored with this year’s Pro Bono Legal Service Awards from the Archdiocese of Washington for their service to low-income people in need. Honorees included Joyce Trimble Gwadz of Dow Lohnes and U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola with the U.S. district court in D.C. Furey, Doolan & Abell of Chevy Chase Md., was also honored for its pro bono efforts. “I was surprised and humbled [by the award] because many people in town donate substantial time and resources to pro bono work in our community,” Gwadz said. Chieko Noguchi of the archdiocese said the mission is to provide pro bono services to low-income residents in D.C. and surrounding Maryland counties.. Eight hundred volunteer attorneys and 57 law firms are part of a network that provides $8 million in free legal service to more than 5,000 people. — Don Tartaglione

FOUR MORE YEARS

It’s official: District of Columbia Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield is in charge for another four years. Satterfield, who re-applied for his job uncontested earlier this year, was sworn in to a second term as chief judge on September 27 during an employee-recognition program at the courthouse. Now in his 20th year on the bench, Satterfield has pledged to make the court more user-friendly during his next term, from finding new ways to schedule cases so litigants aren’t sitting around the courthouse all day to bringing down the time it can take judges to issue orders. A former federal prosecutor, Satterfield was appointed to Superior Court in 1992 and took over as chief judge from now-Senior Judge Rufus King III in 2008. — Zoe Tillman