Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells
Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells (Diego M. Radzinschi)

Hogan Lovell’s Neal Katyal has a lineup of U.S. Supreme Court arguments in the coming term that most high court advocates would trade a coveted justice bobblehead for. But none of the five he will argue is likely to capture the nation’s attention as much one he recently signed up to handle, if the justices take it — opposition to Utah’s same-sex marriage bans.

The odds favor the justices agreeing to review a same-sex marriage case during the new term, and so lawyers for the three same-sex couples who toppled Utah’s bans in June put out the word that they were looking for a top flight advocate with large-firm resources, said one of those lawyers, Peggy Tomsic of Salt Lake City’s Magleby & Greenwood. “We didn’t have to think twice,” when Katyal reached out, she said.

Every level of Hogan Lovells was eager to help, said Katyal who, with nine other lawyers, has been working on Herbert v. Kitchen for about a month. And despite their victory in the lower appellate court, he, Tomsic and the National Center for Lesbian Rights will urge the justices to hear Utah’s appeal.

Utah filed its petition in the high court on Aug. 5. Although Katyal’s reply is due Sept. 4, he and Tomsic intend to file sooner. “We all are burdened with an urgency to get this done,” Tomsic said.

Katyal, a former acting solicitor general, agreed. “We recognize we will put in substantial resources — not just me, but the whole Supreme Court team and the whole pro bono department. We understand the gravity of the issue and we will do everything to tee this up for the court in the most respectful and thoughtful way.” — Marcia Coyle

HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT MAGNA CARTA?

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has declined invitations to speak before the American Bar Association ever since he took office in 2005 — until this year. On Aug. 11, he spoke before the House of Delegates at the ABA’s annual meeting in Boston.

The chance to talk about the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta next year was apparently what got Roberts to say yes. He thanked the ABA’s commitment to educate the public about the document. “Do not underestimate the extent of that challenge,” Roberts said. He tried his best to make it interesting — even trying out a joke.

At the Magna Carta monument in Runnymede, Roberts said, a guide asked tourists if they had questions. One inquired, “When was the Magna Carta signed?” The answer: “1215.” The tourist turned to his wife and said, “I told you we shouldn’t have stopped for lunch. We just missed it.” The ABA audience laughed, and Roberts said, “If you didn’t like that, you try coming up with a Magna Carta joke.” — Tony Mauro

LOBBYIST RULE LOOSENED

Certain lobbyists can serve once again on federal agency committees and boards. The Obama administration has changed a rule that barred them from the panels, according to an Aug. 12 U.S. Office of Management and Budget notice. The revised policy lets Erik Autor and five other lobbyists fighting the ban in Autor v. Pritzker apply for membership on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees.

These 16 panels are intended to bring together business and government to create U.S. trade policy. The ban, which covers hundreds of advisory boards and commissions, now “does not apply if [lobbyists] are specifically appointed to represent the interests of a nongovernmental entity, a recognizable group of persons or nongovernmental entities (an industry sector, labor unions, environmental groups, etc.), or state or local governments,” the OMB notice says.

Autor and the other lobbyists all were ­federally registered lobbyists who sought to represent trade associations on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees. — Andrew Ramonas

‘THOROUGH’ PROBE PROMISED

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. last week pledged a “thorough and fair” investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Missouri.

Holder’s Aug. 14 statement followed the latest round of violent clashes between protesters and police. President Barack Obama said at a news conference that he’d asked Holder to ensure “an open and transparent process to see that justice is done,” and report to him “about what’s being done to make sure that happens.”

A Ferguson, Mo., officer fatally shot Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9; an eyewitness said that several shots hit Brown as he attempted to flee police with his hands in the air. Protests have resulted in clashes with heavily armed police dressed in paramilitary gear using tear gas, and two Washington journalists were arrested and then released without charge. Holder previously had said the FBI and attorneys from the department’s Civil Rights Division would investigate the shooting along with local authorities.

He later said local officials had accepted technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice to “conduct crowd control and maintain public safety without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force.” — Todd Ruger

LOWENSTEIN HITS D.C.

Lowenstein Sandler, New Jersey’s most ­profitable law firm, has opened a branch in Washington by moving three existing partners and poaching four from Dickstein Shapiro. The office will occupy 15,000 square feet at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave. It’s the second major New Jersey-founded firm to plant a flag in Washington this year. “We kind of need to be where the regulators are,” firm chairman Gary Wingens said. “That’s core to D.C. and makes it different than any other market in the world.”

The five partners in the office are head of antitrust Jeffrey Blumenfeld, Matthew Magidson and Miguel Pozo and, from Dickstein, Andrew Reidy and Catherine Serafin, both insurance litigators. Another Dickstein insurance partner, Michael McGaughey, will join Lowenstein in Los Angeles. Dickstein’s largest insurance rainmaker, Kirk Pasich, has not left the firm. Lowenstein’s group from Dickstein marks yet another wave of departures for the Washington-based firm, which has struggled with headcount and revenue declines.

McCarter & English, New Jersey’s largest home-grown firm by headcount, also opened a Washington office this year. — Katelyn Polantz

BAKER BOTTS IS BUILDING

Like several other out-of-town law firms, Houston-based Baker Botts is building up its D.C. presence to boost its Supreme Court practice. Partner Aaron Streett is “dual-officing a few days a month,” he said, shuttling between Houston and Washington as needed. Streett, 37, a former clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, made his debut high court argument in March and in April gained the title of chairman of the Supreme Court and constitutional law practice.

Baker Botts has had an active Supreme Court practice before, but not since Jeffrey Lamken left in 2009 to create his own boutique firm. “Having a Supreme Court practice adds a lot of cachet,” said David Sterling, Baker Botts’ litigation chairman.

“I don’t know anybody who thinks it makes a lot of money for the firm,” he added, but the luster of Supreme Court work attracts clients and recruits, and having the “big brains” of Supreme Court practitioners like Streett “is a great help with other matters.” — Tony Mauro

THE SQUEAKY WHEEL …

For those who wonder whether it’s worth it to comment on proposed agency rules, lawyers from Reed Smith have proof the answer is yes. Based on a single comment, the U.S. Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration changed a final rule covering the allowability of legal costs, according to partner Lorraine Mullings Campos and associate Joelle Laszlo.

“Anyone who doubts the benefit of participating in notice and comment rulemaking may want to reconsider that stance,” they wrote in a blog post. “Submitting comments on a proposed or interim rule doesn’t have to cost a lot, and it may pay off, even when no one else speaks up.”

The comment that swayed the officials came from Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Y-12. Acting chief counsel Kenneth Brown argued that the interim rule “effectively prohibits ­settlement of whistleblower claims” because contractors that settle would not be able to recover any of their defense costs from the government. The agencies agreed and “incorporated the requested change … to provide interpretation of the cost ­principle.” — Jenna Greene

TEAM GOES ON DEFENSE

Lawyers for a certain Washington professional football team are going on the offensive to defend the team’s name, appealing a ruling by a divided panel of administrative law judges canceling six “Redskins” trademarks. The three-member U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel ruled in June that the team’s name was “disparaging” to Native Americans. In the appeal, filed on Aug. 14 in Virginia federal court, the team’s lawyers called the June decision “unprecedented” and “replete with errors of fact and law.” It also violated the team’s First and Fifth Amendment rights, they said. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan represents the team. The case is before U.S. District Judge Gerald Lee. — Zoe Tillman