SPEEDY PATH TO THE APPELLATE BENCH
Iowa federal public defender Jane Kelly did a bit of leapfrogging this year to become the newest circuit judge.
Jill Pryor of Bondurant Mixson & Elmore in Atlanta, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, has been stuck in the Senate’s confirmation process for 14 months. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has waited more than 10 months. There are 14 district court judicial nominees who were nominated before Kelly but have yet to be granted the courtesy of a vote.
So why did the Senate on April 24 confirm Kelly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in just three months, faster than any other circuit court nominee during the Obama administration? Part of the unusual answer starts at an Iowa hospital during the mid-1970s, when Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) lay ill during his campaign for Congress. Back then a Republican county chairman and small-town lawyer named David Hansen went out and campaigned for the stricken candidate. Grassley remembered the favor and recommended Hansen for a spot on the Eighth Circuit. Kelly clerked for Hansen, who wrote to Grassley, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in support of Kelly’s nomination. The vote was 96-0. — Todd Ruger
D.C. CIRCUIT, ALL TOGETHER
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit doesn’t regularly take cases en banc, making last week’s announcement, in a Guantánamo Bay military commission dispute, a bit of a surprise. On September 30, the full court — seven active judges right now — is scheduled to meet in the ceremonial courtroom of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse to hear the government’s concerns about the viability of conspiracy and material-support charges involving conduct that occurred before 2006. The appeals court in January — with DOJ’s acquiescence — vacated military-commission convictions against Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul. DOJ lawyers, including John De Pue, contend that a panel decision last year in a case called Hamdan II "adversely affects the military commission system that Congress established to try and punish al Qaeda terrorists." Pending military-commission prosecutions, DOJ lawyers said in their petition in March seeking full-court review, each include either a conspiracy or material-support charge for alleged conduct committed before 2006. Al-Bahlul’s lawyers, including Michel Paradis, urged the appeals court to leave the panel decision untouched. — Mike Scarcella
NO LONGER WELCOME
Richard Cordray has all but worn a path from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress seven times in the past year alone. But he’s officially been un-invited to appear before the House Financial Services Committee. Last week, committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) sent Cordray a letter telling him he was no longer welcome because he’s not the real director of the CFPB. Hensarling pointed to a January decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional. Hensarling said the decision meant Cordray’s appointment, which was made on the same day, "was also unconstitutional. Absent contrary guidance from the United States Supreme Court, you do not meet the statutory requirements of a validly-serving Director of the CFPB and cannot be recognized as such." A CFPB spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, but Cordray in remarks before the Senate Banking Committee last week hinted he might not be too heart-broken about getting a pass from the House. Testifying before Congress, he said, "is not fun and games for me." — Jenna Greene
When he heard on April 23 that D.C. voters likely had endorsed a referendum to forgo congressional approval for the city’s budget, Arent Fox partner Jon Bouker raised a glass in celebration. Bouker, who is a co-leader of the firm’s government-relations practice, and firm associate Aaron Brand helped advocacy groups D.C. Vote and D.C. Appleseed pro bono to sponsor the referendum, which secured 83 percent of the vote. "It really was a victory for D.C. residents," said Bouker, who serves as D.C. Vote chairman and D.C. Appleseed vice chairman. Despite concerns by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan for the legality of the referendum, Bouker predicted it would become law. Nathan told the D.C. Board of Elections in January that the "only lawful way" to obtain D.C. budget autonomy is to have Congress approve legislation. — Andrew Ramonas
DOCUMENT FIGHT, PAUSED
Since August, the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has pressed the U.S. Justice Department to turn over a ruling by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the panel that reviews certain law enforcement warrant applications in national security investigations. Earlier this month, DOJ lawyers, including Jacqueline Coleman Snead, asked a federal trial judge to dismiss the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Now, the legal action is grinding to a halt — at least temporarily. EFF lawyers David Sobel and Mark Rumold on April 24 asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to stay further proceedings. Why? The group plans to ask the surveillance court itself to publish the 86-page ruling that’s at the heart of the fight in the trial court. The request, EFF said, will test the DOJ argument that the surveillance court’s own rules prohibit the government from releasing the opinion. Jackson wants a status report by June 5. — Mike Scarcella
PURSUING LANCE ARMSTRONG
Lance Armstrong came clean about doping during his reign as a cycling champion, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the hook with federal prosecutors. The U.S. Depart­ment of Justice filed a civil complaint against Armstrong on April 23, accusing the now-notorious cyclist of fraud and unjust enrichment while his cycling team was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service. The move came several months after the Justice Department announced its intention to get involved in the False Claims Act case, which was originally filed in Washington federal court in 2010 by his former cycling teammate Floyd Landis. — Zoe Tillman