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BUSH TRIES NEW FILIBUSTER BUSTER The filibuster over the nomination of Miguel Estrada continued last week with no signs of a quick end to the stalemate. But the White House is trying yet another tactic in an attempt to garner the 60 votes it needs to break the deadlock on its nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. On the evening of Feb. 27, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sent a letter to senators with the administration’s latest proposal to end the logjam, which has centered on Democrats’ demands for memorandums written by Estrada between 1992 and 1997 as a lawyer in the Office of the Solicitor General. Gonzales proposed that senators with additional questions for Estrada should immediately pose them in writing, and Estrada, a partner in the D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, would respond by March 4. Gonzales also said senators could request the views of all of Estrada’s former supervisors, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Estrada clerked in the 1980s. Again, those people could be asked to respond by March 4. David Carle, a spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), replies that the proposal is “obviously not responsive to the nearly year-old request for the memoranda from the solicitor general’s office.” The senators say that only by seeing these documents can they get a good idea of Estrada’s views. Last week, Estrada’s supporters garnered one new Democratic vote for cloture, that of Bill Nelson of Florida. They still had only 55 votes, five short of the 60 votes required to end debate. The matter could be resolved by a compromise over the documents that could lead to a successful cloture vote. Alternatively, the administration could eventually be forced to withdraw the Estrada nomination, although at a Feb. 28 briefing, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer continued to stand behind the nominee. President George W. Bush “believes very deeply in the importance of the Senate taking action to confirm Miguel Estrada,” Fleischer said. Chances that the Democrats would successfully filibuster three other controversial nominees dimmed Feb. 27, when each picked up significant Democratic support in Judiciary Committee votes. Hogan &Hartson partner John Roberts Jr., also a nominee for the D.C. Circuit, was approved by a 13-3 vote. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook, a choice for the 6th Circuit, was endorsed 13-2, and Justice Department official Jay Bybee, selected for the 9th Circuit, was approved 12-6. Two or three committee Democrats voted for each nominee. It’s not clear when those nominations will go to the Senate floor, but as long as the Estrada matter is tying the Senate in knots, other nominees are unlikely to get their day any time soon. — Jonathan Groner PLAN B FOR GLOBAL CROSSING Efforts by Global Crossing Ltd. to win U.S. approval of a pending sale of the company to two foreign investors suffered a major setback last week. According to four sources with knowledge of the matter, the bankrupt telecommunications enterprise and its would-be investors, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte Ltd., withdrew their application for approval of the deal on Feb. 24, after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) made clear it would not approve the transaction as proposed. Facing off against CFIUS are Global’s advisers from Covington & Burling; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Kissinger McLarty Associates. As reported in Legal Times on Feb. 17, CFIUS members, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, have resisted the deal because of their concerns about possible links between Hutchison and the Chinese government. The parties’ withdrawal does not mean the sale is doomed. According to three sources close to the talks, CFIUS has agreed to discuss alternative structures for the deal. Under one arrangement that was expected to be proposed to CFIUS, Hutchison would be required to make its investment in Global through a proxy entity. That proxy would then be almost completely independent of the Hong Kong conglomerate. At press time, it was not known whether that proposal had gained support within CFIUS. Spokespersons for Global Crossing and Singapore Technology declined comment. A spokesman for the Treasury Department, which chairs CFIUS, did not reply to a request for comment. “The CFIUS process is confidential and, therefore, we cannot comment,” says a spokesman for Hutchison Whampoa. “What we can confirm is that we continue to cooperate with the U.S. government to address any concerns.” — Otis Bilodeau FIELDS: THE PRODIGAL LAWYER At the end of 1999 and at the peak of the dot-com boom, top insurance litigator Richard Fields left his partnership at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman to start a new venture, ResolveClaims.com. The new online business was to buy and sell insurance claims as if they were securities. Now, Fields, 47, is back doing the old-fashioned thing — practicing law. He just joined Dickstein Shapiro Morin &Oshinsky as a partner. Fields moved to London three years ago, sold his venture in 2000 to a brokerage there, and has run a couple of businesses since then before returning to D.C. “I’m coming back as a much more well-rounded lawyer,” says Fields, who once led a group at Swidler that grossed $50 million annually. “The energy and talent that he brings are amazing,” says Dickstein managing partner Angelo Arcadipane. Fields joins another insurance powerhouse at the firm: Dickstein name partner Jerold Oshinsky. — Jonathan Groner THE COUNCIL’S MOST EXCELLENT WINDFALL The Council for Court Excellence, a nonprofit that monitors D.C.’s federal and local courts, had its budget doubled last week when Congress handed it $1 million to keep an eye on D.C. Superior Court’s implementation of the D.C. Family Court Act of 2001. According to Assistant Director Priscilla Skillman, the organization approached House and Senate members about funding, but the appropriation and its amount was a surprise. “We never thought this would come together,” says Skillman, adding that the only requirement is for the council to file an annual report. The council, which has six full-time staffers, has already been overseeing the law’s implementation and issued a report last year on its findings. — Tom Schoenberg THE LATEST JUDGE HOLMES? The White House announced plans last week to nominate Mark Van Dyke Holmes to the U.S. Tax Court for a 15-year term. Holmes, a former counsel at D.C.’s Miller & Chevalier, currently serves as deputy assistant attorney general and chief of staff in the Tax Division of the Justice Department.From1991 to 1997, he served as counsel to the chair and commissioners of the International Trade Commission. Holmes marks President George W. Bush’s final nominee to fill six vacancies on the 19-judge court. Tax Court nominees must be confirmed by the Senate Finance Committee. — Vanessa Blum GET ME REED SMITH, STAT! The D.C. office of Reed Smith has been busy. In February, the firm filed 118 complaints in D.C. federal court on behalf of hospitals that say they were underpaid for Medicaid services provided to poor patients prior to 1997. According to the complaints, the federal government has admitted that it misinterpreted its reimbursement obligations, but stated that it would not reopen cases that already settled. Reed Smith of counsel Jacqueline Bennett says the total sought for all 118 matters is around $30 million. Reed Smith is just one of several firms that filed on behalf of clients before the six-year statute of limitations ran out on Feb. 27. Robert Roth of D.C.’s Crowell & Moring has about 50 cases and says it was his 2001 win in Monmouth Medical Center v. Thompson before the D.C. Circuit that triggered the spate of cases. In Monmouth, the government alleged that the U.S. could stand to owe $2 billion to more than 2,000 hospitals nationwide over the adverse Medicaid ruling. — Tom Schoenberg ANOTHER D.C. JUDGE SAYS NO TO DOJ The Justice Department is not having much luck in D.C.’s federal court trying to enforce its new halfway house policy. Last week, Judge Gladys Kessler forbade the Bureau of Prisons from transferring convicted check kiter Zalmen Ashkenazi to a federal prison. Kessler’s Feb. 24 ruling was the second time a federal judge in the District has rebuffed the DOJ’s attempts to send to prison a white collar offender already doing time in a halfway house. In December, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson ordered the BOP to adopt a new policy regarding halfway house placements. In particular, the policy states that felons could no longer serve their entire sentence at a halfway house. Thompson also ordered felons already in halfway houses with more than 150 days left to serve to be transferred to prison, triggering challenges nationwide. In January, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle was the first D.C. judge to rule that the policy unlawfully interfered with the sentence she handed down to a convicted check forger. In granting Ashkenazi’s request for a preliminary injunction, Kessler found that a “significant factor” in Ashkenazi’s decision to accept a plea agreement was the fact that he would be eligible to serve his time in a halfway house. Channing Phillips, chief of staff to U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr., says the government hasn’t decided whether to appeal. — Tom Schoenberg NO RELIEF FOR MURDERED WORKER A humanitarian group can’t be held liable for the murder of one of its relief workers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has held. On Feb. 25, the circuit ruled against the mother of Deena Marie Umbarger, who was shot dead in 1999 in a Somalian teahouse. Umbarger, a 1994 Yale law graduate, was once an associate at the D.C. office of Baker & Hostetler, but left the law to do relief work. The court found that the United Methodist Committee on Relief had no duty under D.C. law to protect Umbarger. “UMCOR was in no better position to provide for Umbarger’s safety than was Umbarger herself,” Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg wrote for the court. “The murder was unsettling enough for people in this relief organization,” says William Briggs of D.C.’s Ross, Dixon & Bell, UMCOR’s lawyer. “It was even more unsettling to be sued.” Mark London of D.C.’s London & Mead, who represented the plaintiff, says he had a “virtually insurmountable” hurdle to overcome.”But if UMCOR learned because of this experience to train its people better,” London adds, “that’s a victory.” — Jonathan Groner

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