As former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. prepared to receive his sentence last week, he had a familiar face at his side.
Steptoe & Johnson litigation partner Reid Weingarten represented Jackson when he was a witness in the 2011 retrial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. When Jackson faced allegations of misusing campaign money, he called on Weingarten again. Jackson's legal team also included Brian Heberlig, who heads Steptoe's white-collar defense practice, and Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree Jr.
Ties between the bench and counsel tables also ran deep. The case was reassigned from U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins shortly after Ogletree entered his appearance, prompting speculation the change was made because the two had known each other for years. The judge who took the case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation to the defendant), disclosed early on that she knew lawyers on both sides from when she was a private lawyer, and that Ogletree was one of her references when she was nominated to the court.
Judge Jackson sentenced Jackson, who admitted stealing $750,000 from his campaign to pay for personal expenses, to serve 30 months in prison. It was more than the 18 months Weingarten suggested — "the goddess of justice would not weep" at such a sentence, he told the judge — but less than the four years recommended by the government. — Zoe Tillman
HOURS OF PREPARATION, TWO MINUTES OF GLORY
U.S. Supreme Court advocates don't usually find themselves on the Today show, especially more than a month after their cases have been decided. But that is where Lori Alvino McGill, a D.C.-based partner at Latham & Watkins, appeared on August 9 to explain the latest twists and turns of the fast-breaking Indian adoption case of Baby Veronica, titled in the Supreme Court as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. McGill represents Veronica's birth mother Christina Maldonado, who put her daughter up for adoption. The father, Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, later invoked a federal law protecting Indian families to assert his parental rights. The high court ruled June 25 that the law did not apply. "We had to do media because Brown and the Cherokee Nation were working the media," said McGill. "We felt it was too dangerous to be silent." Of the Today show, McGill said the experience was frustrating and reminded her of oral arguments: "All that preparation for 2 1/2 minutes, when you could have talked for an hour," said McGill. — Tony Mauro
The list of big-name white-collar defense lawyers representing defendants netted in U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr.' s local corruption probe got a little longer last week. William Lawler III, the head of Vinson & Elkins' white-collar practice, entered an appearance for a former campaign adviser to Mayor Vincent Gray (D) who pleaded guilty on August 13 to making false statements. Vernon Hawkins admitted lying to FBI agents investigating a shadow campaign supporting Gray in the 2010 election. Gray hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing. Lawler said he hadn't represented Hawkins before he was hired 18 months ago, and declined to name the lawyer who recommended Hawkins contact him. He also declined to discuss their fee arrangement. "I've done cases like this before and we met and it looked like it would work out," said Lawler, whose past clients include baseball star Miguel Tejada and former New Jersey governor James McGreevey. "It's been a real pleasure working with him." — Zoe Tillman
The chief judges of nearly every federal district court joined together in one letter sent to Congress last week, calling themselves "the boots on the ground in our nation's federal trial courts." Their message: Low funding of the courts can't go on. The letter was signed by 87 judges including Richard Roberts, chief judge of the District of Columbia; Deborah Chasanow, chief judge of the District of Maryland; Rebecca Smith, chief judge of the Eastern District of Virginia; and Glen Conrad, chief judge of the Western District of Virginia. The chief judges urged the leadership of the Senate and House, as well as the House and Senate Judiciary and appropriations committees, to at least restore the $350 million in sequestration cuts from this year's budget. Congress returns from summer break in September with only a handful of legislative days to resolve a budget impasse or risk a government shutdown on October 1. "We do not have projects or programs to cut; we only have people," the letter says. "Our workload does not diminish because of budget shortfalls. Deep funding cuts simply mean that the Judiciary cannot adequately perform its responsibilities." The letter also warns that the lack of money is causing delays that undermine the public's confidence in the judicial system. — Todd Ruger
IN THE CROSSHAIRS
Patton Boggs and one of its former partners are the targets of a $4 million malpractice suit filed last week in New York. James McNair, currently a partner at Reed Smith in Falls Church, Va., is being sued by former client Endurance Financial International LLC, which sells group life insurance to both wealthy individuals and pension funds. In 2009, according to the complaint, McNair suggested that the company expand into Texas. Following his advice, Endurance said it spent $1.4 million to develop an insurance program and attract investors. The problem — Texas prohibits outside companies from soliciting insurance inside the state, and many of the company's proposed activities would be based in Bermuda. McNair "failed to mention the statute in his initial conversations with EFI because neither he nor his colleagues had to that point researched the issue, a stunning oversight," according to the complaint. McNair represented the company from 2008 to 2010. EFI said it paid Patton $1.6 million for its work and wants at least $4 million in damages. Neither McNair nor Patton responded to a request for comment. — Matthew Huisman
Pratik Shah, an assistant to the solicitor general with 13 Supreme Court arguments under his belt, has followed in the footsteps of numerous colleagues in recent years to become co-head of a major appellate practice. He'll be joining Patricia Millett to head up Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld's Supreme Court team, starting September 23. The arrival of Shah, 37, will enable the firm to boost its Supreme Court and appellate practice while also making for a smooth transition when or if Millett is confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee, voting along party lines, approved her nomination August 1 by 10 to 8. Shah, an Ohio native and a former clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer, went to the SG's office in 2008 and says he is "most proud" of writing the government's briefs in both same-sex marriage cases this past term, United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. Millett called her new colleague "a brilliant advocate with a rigorously analytical mind." — Tony Mauro
THE PRICE OF VIRTUE
Can you put a price on restoring public integrity? For $425 an hour, partners from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton can. That's the starting hourly rate for partners serving as the independent monitors for the New Orleans Police Department. A team of Sheppard Mullin lawyers is tasked with ensuring that the city complies with a 2012 consent decree entered with the U.S. Department of Justice. Among the violations cited in the consent decree are the use of excessive force, unlawful searches and arrests and discrimination. The hourly billing rate for partners increases incrementally over the life of the four-year contract, maxing out at $491.99 an hour. By comparison, associates start out at $350 an hour and climb to $405.17. The contract caps expenditures at $8.5 million. (Sheppard Mullin submitted a bid of $7.9 million.) Washington office co-managing partner Jonathan Aronie is the primary monitor, with partner David Douglass serving as the deputy monitor. They'll be supported by partners Peter Morris and Tracey Kennedy and a team that includes a former police chief. — Matthew Huisman
Thomas Wenning is calling it quits after more than 30 years as the National Grocers Association's executive vice president and general counsel, the Arlington, Va.-based organization announced last week. Wenning will leave the trade group for grocery businesses controlled by families or employees on December 31. He has served as the organization's GC and EVP since the National Association of Retail Grocers of the United States and the Cooperative Food Distributors of America merged to form NGA in 1982. NGA counts more than 500 independent retailers as members, including Trader Joe's Co. and several Piggly Wiggly affiliates. "It's been a great opportunity that I never anticipated that I would have," he said. — Andrew Ramonas