Washington Wrap is a weekly look at the biggest legal industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at email@example.com.
With Hurricane Florence appearing to veer south and west on Friday, lawyer Debra Katz may be the biggest force disrupting the status quo in Washington this week.
Katz, founding partner of Katz, Marshall & Banks in D.C., testified before Congress, represented a woman taking on “Wall Street’s Greatest Trader,” and was linked to Democrats’ likely last best chance to derail Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
On Wednesday, Katz testified on the Hill before the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues at a hearing that aimed to turn the #MeToo movement into legislative action.
“The MeToo moment is truly a remarkable moment in our history,” Katz told the women’s caucus on Wednesday. “Women are sharing their experiences of sexual harassment on a massive scale and the revelations are chilling. They’re not stopping. Every single day we read something new that’s shocking.”
Later that day, Katz was identified in a report by The Intercept as the lawyer for the anonymous woman who authored a secret letter purportedly alleging misconduct by Kavanaugh. On Thursday, the controversy received greater public scrutiny when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said she referred the matter to federal officials.
What Katz knew about the accusations against Kavanaugh published after her testimony remains unclear, as she has not responded to repeated requests for comment. She also has not confirmed her representation of the letter’s author, only telling BuzzFeed, “There’s nothing to say.”
Saying little is out of character for the otherwise highly vocal Katz; at Wednesday’s hearing her opening statement ran well over the time allotted by the elected leaders seeking her input. This summer she was dubbed “DC’s Leading #MeToo Lawyer” by Washingtonian magazine, which described her telling an audience at the International Women’s Forum that women were coming forward in “record numbers” and keeping her “very, very busy.”
She acknowledged adding another high-profile representation this week: a woman accusing billionaire Michael Steinhardt of “making inappropriate sexual remarks,” according to The New York Jewish Week. Two women working at Hillel International leveled claims against Steinhardt, a large donor for the organization who was dubbed “Wall Street’s Greatest Trader” by Forbes in 2014.
Outside the Jewish press, the accusations against Steinhardt appeared to garner little attention. Katz expressed concern on Wednesday that women accusers were not getting the proper amount of attention from the press because of what she termed “Weinstein fatigue.”
“I worry about the Weinstein effect—if you haven’t assaulted 80 people, it doesn’t count,” Katz told members of Congress on Wednesday. “If you haven’t raped people and done the most egregious things, it’s more of a ‘huh.’ It’s not even worthy of The Washington Post anymore.”
Not that the press isn’t paying attention to other Katz clients. Recently, that group has included women who reported abuse by Harvey Weinstein, women who claimed harassment in the workplace at NPR, and women who accused Eric Schneiderman, former New York attorney general, of physical harassment.
The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow has written about several sexual misconduct controversies involving Katz’s clients, and Katz has served as a source for Farrow. On Friday, he reported new details about this week’s letter concerning Kavanaugh, writing that the letter includes accusations that Kavanaugh attempted to force himself on a woman in the 1980s when both were in high school. Kavanaugh denied the claims, and 65 women who knew Kavanaugh in high school wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership on Friday supporting Kavanaugh in response.
Katz has attributed the “large uptick in sexual, racial, and religious harassment cases” to the aftermath of the 2016 election and “President Trump’s misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim conduct and comments.”
“I am hopeful that we will get through this period in even stronger shape because we recognize what’s at stake and we are determined to resist—fiercely and strategically,” Katz told the National Women’s Law Center in October 2017.
Law firm moves, news and notes:
The Institute for Free Speech added Parker Douglas as senior attorney this week, following his time in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Douglas was a 2017-18 Supreme Court fellow and formerly served as Utah federal solicitor and chief of staff to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. He also previously practiced law in Latham & Watkins’ Supreme Court and appellate section. Douglas will expand IFS’s litigation on First Amendment issues, according to a release from the group.
Steptoe & Johnson added Sara Pikofsky as a partner in Washington. She will work in the firm’s ERISA litigation practice and draw upon her experience at the Department of Labor.
She was most recently at Jones Day, where she spent more than 10 years as of counsel and then partner.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom recruited Daniel Gerkin to join the firm’s national security practice as counsel in Washington, D.C., from Vinson & Elkins. He represents clients in mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. and internationally and counsels clients on matters involving the movement of goods, software, and other services across borders around the world.
He was formerly of counsel at K&L Gates and an associate at Kirkland & Ellis, Venable, and Alston & Bird.
Jefferson P. VanderWolk joined Squire Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., as partner in the firm’s tax strategy and benefits practice.
He most recently worked for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris for two years, and has previous experience in D.C. for Ernst & Young, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, and the IRS.
Covington & Burling added Terrell McSweeny as a partner in D.C. following her stint as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, which ended in April.
She will join Covington’s antitrust and competition law and data privacy and cybersecurity practice groups.