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FIRMS PURSUE LARGEST SEX DISCRIMINATION CLASS ACTION EVER The biggest retail chain in the world is now on course to become the target of the largest sex discrimination class action ever filed. And a D.C. plaintiffs firm is right in the middle of it. On April 28, a group of lawyers representing seven women in an employment discrimination case against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. asked a federal judge to certify a class of 1.6 million plaintiffs — virtually every woman who has worked in the Wal-Mart empire in the United States since December 1998. Lawyers for the original plaintiffs in the case, which is pending in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claim that the Bentonsville, Ark., company has systematically underpaid women and kept them out of management. D.C.’s Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll is one of six firms representing the plaintiffs, who filed suit in June 2001. Joseph Sellers, head of Cohen, Milstein’s civil rights and employee discrimination practice, says top company officials knew about the discrimination in its 3,400 stores, but did nothing to stop it. “Senior executives in the company were aware of the problems as long as a decade ago,” says Sellers. “There’s been very little in the way of progress.” Instead, Sellers alleges, the pay disparity between men and women has grown over the last five years. In 2001, the average salary for a male store manager was about $105,000 while a woman manager made just $89,000, according to plaintiffs’ court papers. Male sales associates pulled in about $16,500 while women earned $15,000, plaintiffs allege. In addition to Cohen, Milstein, the plaintiffs are represented by San Francisco’s Davis, Cowell & Bowe and Santa Fe, N.M.’s Tinkler & Bennett. Three public interest law groups are also involved: the Impact Fund, based in Berkeley, Calif.; San Francisco’s Equal Rights Advocates; and Baltimore’s Public Justice Center. Mona Williams, vice president of communications for Wal-Mart, says the company’s data show that at nine out of 10 stores, women are paid the same as men. “There is absolutely no basis for a finding of systemwide discrimination at Wal-Mart,” says Williams, adding that its lawyers will oppose the motion. Wal-Mart was initially defended by the San Francisco office of Seyfarth Shaw and the Chicago office of Jones Day. Last fall, lawyers at the D.C. and Los Angeles offices of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker filed appearances and have since taken over the case. A hearing on the class certification motion is scheduled for July. — Tom Schoenberg PENTAGON CRAFTS RULES FOR COUNSEL The Pentagon on May 2 released “instructions” for civilian defense lawyers seeking to represent accused terrorists before military commissions. Among the rules lawyers must agree to: no joint-defense agreements, no talking to the press without Pentagon approval, and no seeking delays for unrelated professional or personal business. Would-be civilian defense counsel must also be U.S. citizens qualified to practice law and able to gain a security clearance of “secret” or higher. Despite all this, civilian lawyers are not guaranteed access to closed proceedings. No one has been picked to face a military commission so far. But Defense Department lawyers have been busy laying out regulations for the trials. “We have been reviewing different cases for some time,” says one senior Defense Department official.” We obviously have some thoughts about who would be appropriate to bring before a military commission.” — Vanessa Blum V&E’S TELECOM CONNECTION Vinson & Elkins‘ D.C. office has landed five telecommunications lawyers from the D.C. office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, including Henry Rivera, a former commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, and Mark Lipp, who was chief of the commission’s allocation branch from 1980 to 1988. Rivera, 56, and Lipp, 53, join the Houston-based firm’s 20-lawyer telecom group as partners. Coming along with them are Michael Berg, 56, and J. Thomas Nolan, 50, who join V&E as counsel. Edgar Class, 32, joins as an associate. Jay Hebert, co-managing partner of the firm’s D.C. office and head of the telecom practice, says the new hires will add mass and depth to his group. — Lily Henning FORMER ANDERSEN CONSULTANTS COME TO TOWN The Huron Consulting Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm founded last May by a group of former Arthur Andersen partners, has opened a D.C. outpost. Thomas Leonard, a managing director in the consultancy’s Boston office, is leading the new D.C. venture. Leonard says he expects to draw consulting work from law firms that require accounting and finance expertise in connection with Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, internal corporate investigations, and public company financial restatements, among other matters. Leonard, a former senior partner at Andersen who led the firm’s business advisory practice in New England, notes that Huron already counts five of the 20 highest-grossing D.C. firms as clients. He declines to name them or to identify any other Huron clients. The firm has secured space at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Leonard, 49, says he expects to staff up “rapidly” in the District by hiring some local talent and luring consultants from other Huron offices. The firm’s hourly rates range from about $150 to $550, Leonard says. — Otis Bilodeau PAUL, HASTINGS IS IMMIGRATION FRIENDLY The general counsel at the Immigration and Naturalization Service has joined Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker as a partner in the firm’s immigration law practice. Owen “Bo” Cooper, 41, spent 12 years at the INS. Since February, he has served as senior counsel on immigration issues at the Department of Homeland Security. At Paul, Hastings the one-time Department of Justice civil litigator will divide his time between the firm’s D.C. and Atlanta offices and help lead the federal enforcement and corporate compliance team. Atlanta partner Daryl Buffenstein, who chairs Paul, Hastings’ 15-lawyer immigration practice, says Cooper’s understanding of the INS and its reorganization into Homeland Security will help the firm counsel clients on recent shifts in immigration procedures. “There’s been a sea change in immigration enforcement,” Buffenstein says. — Lily Henning SPAM FIGHT KEEPS LAWYERS ONLINE War, earthquakes, and SARS be damned. For a bevy of D.C. lawyers, the topic of the moment is junk e-mail. Federal and state legislators are threatening jail time, bounties, and stiff financial penalties for purveyors of e-mail “spam.” Last week, the Federal Trade Commission held a forum on the subject, and members of Congress have offered a welter of legislative proposals to ban the unsolicited e-mail ads. The proposals have drawn mostly tepid support from D.C. lawyers whose clients include companies that market via e-mail, like Wiley Rein & Fielding partner John Kamp; Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn associate James Kaminski; Piper Rudnick partner Ronald Plesser;and Venable partner Ian Volner. Plesser and Volner, both outside counsel to the D.C.-based Direct Marketing Association, say they’re concerned their clients’ ads could wind up falling under proposed federal spam laws. But they say they’d rather see a national standard than a patchwork of state statutes. — Lily Henning MISS AMERICA AND JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS Almost everyone has an opinion these days on the judicial nomination process — even Miss America. At a National Press Club appearance May 2, current Miss America Erika Harold, who will enter Harvard Law School in fall 2004, was asked if she would ever like to become a Supreme Court justice. The idea appealed to the Phi Beta Kappa University of Illinois graduate, but then she said that the “downside” to being appointed is “the way the nomination process would go.” Harold, 23, explained, “They look back at the controversial statements you have made, and I have made a lot. That would probably disqualify me.” She indicated that, after Harvard, she’ll head toward public service or, possibly, elective office. — Tony Mauro

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