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CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT CIVIL RIGHTS UNIT Assistant Attorney General Ralph Boyd, head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, announced plans last week to leave government and return to private practice. Boyd is expected to be replaced by R. Alexander Acosta, a commissioner on the National Labor Relations Board and Boyd’s former deputy. If confirmed, Acosta, who is just 34 years old, will be the first Hispanic to hold the post. A Miami native of Cuban heritage, Acosta graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Federalist Society. Following a clerkship with Judge Samuel Alito of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, Acosta joined the D.C. office of Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis. In 1997, Acosta founded the Project on the Judiciary, a conservative group committed to defeating the nominations of activist judges. Among the group’s board members are a number of notable conservatives: William Bennett, the secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan; William Kristol, editor and publisher of The Weekly Standard; Edwin Meese, attorney general under Reagan; and Dick Thornburgh, attorney general during the first Bush administration. According to the Justice Department, Acosta has been endorsed by the Hispanic Bar Association and the American Association of People With Disabilities. Several other civil rights groups say they are reserving judgment. “If Acosta is nominated and confirmed, we have simple advice — enforce the law,” says Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of civil and human rights advocacy groups. Henderson calls Boyd’s tenure a “profound disappointment,” marked by a lack of enforcement in the areas of voting rights and employment discrimination. Boyd did not return calls seeking comment. He has not said where he plans to practice or whether he will remain in Washington. Prior to joining the administration, Boyd was a partner at Boston’s Goodwin Procter. The past two months have brought a flurry of departures by top Justice officials, including Criminal Division chief Michael Chertoff and Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy Viet Dinh. In yet another departure, Adam Ciongoli, the longtime counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft, is taking the post of senior vice president and general counsel for AOL Time Warner Europe. Ciongoli, who joined Ashcroft’s Senate staff in 1999, says the job offer was “an opportunity too good to be true.” — Vanessa Blum LESS L.A. LAW FOR SHAW PITTMAN Shaw Pittman will sever its emerging-company and health care practices in Los Angeles, cutting its head count there from 17 lawyers to five. Firm managing partner Stephen Huttler says the reductions will occur in an “orderly wind-down situation over the next several months,” adding that “the timing is not right to try to build a Los Angles emerging-company capability.” Health law partner Charles Fiedler and corporate partners Eric Klein and Clara Martin are among those affected by the decision. The firm has an existing emerging-company practice in Northern Virginia. Huttler says Shaw Pittman won’t shutter its L.A. office, which opened in March 2001 with one partner, but will focus its West Coast presence on a technology and outsourcing group already housed there. — Lily Henning MCKEE NELSON’S NEW STRUCTURE McKee Nelson has poached a nine-lawyer structured finance team from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. The move comes a month after McKee Nelson lured Edward De Sear from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where he was chairman of the structured finance practice. Laurence Isaacson, the New York-based head of Fried, Frank’s structured finance group and an expert in collateralized debt securitizations, joins McKee Nelson’s New York office along with another Fried, Frank partner, Andrew Kwok, and a squad of associates. In D.C., Fried, Frank associate Eric Rubenfeld joins McKee Nelson’s home office as of counsel. Isaacson, 40, says he expects that McKee Nelson’s broad securitization expertise will allow him to cross-sell more to his bank clients. — Otis Bilodeau THE CHECK’S IN THE E-MAIL The manufacturer of BlackBerry handheld electronic devices is on the hook for $5.25 million in legal fees to Wiley Rein & Fielding and Hunton & Williams, a federal judge in Virginia has ruled. Research in Motion, the Canada-based maker of BlackBerrys, lost a patent infringement case to NTP Inc., an Arlington, Va.-based holding company, in November. The patents at issue relate to the use of radio frequency wireless communications in e-mail. The jury ordered the BlackBerry maker to pay $23 million in damages, plus 80 percent of NTP’s legal fees — the bulk going to a Wiley Rein team led by James Wallace Jr. Research in Motion, represented by Jones Day and Howrey Simon Arnold & White, protested that the fees were too high. But Judge James Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia flatly dismissed that argument last week, noting that the BlackBerry maker itself spent $4.9 million on lawyers over three months. After the trial, the judge also ruled the patents were willfully infringed and enhanced the damages 50 percent. Pending an appeal, BlackBerry is required to set aside $8 million to $10 million each quarter to cover the growing bill. — Jenna Greene LIMAN LEAVES WILMER FOR CLEARY Lewis Liman, the Manhattan securities litigator who played a lead role in Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering‘s representation of ImClone Systems chief executive Sam Waksal and Tyco International, is leaving the firm to join Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. Liman, 42, was instrumental in building Wilmer’s New York office from a small handful of lawyers in 1999 to about 40 now. His impending departure, announced June 23, illustrates the hazards faced by any firm that comes to dominate a practice coveted by New York’s elite. Firms such as Cleary; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Shearman & Sterling, and others have large capital markets and global transactional practices, and some securities litigators will invariably see opportunities in such firms, says William McLucas, the D.C.-based co-chairman of Wilmer’s securities group. “In this marketplace, probably most of those firms are quite anxious to get people who do what Wilmer does.” — Anthony Lin, New York Law Journal SEC’S SAUER FINDS SECURITY AT VINSON & ELKINS Richard Sauer says the “time was right” to leave his job as the assistant director of the Enforcement Division at the Securities and Exchange Commission and join the securities litigation and enforcement practice at Vinson & Elkins‘ D.C. office. Although it wasn’t easy for the 13-year SEC veteran to leave, “Everyone I knew at the SEC told me I would be insane to turn down the opportunity of a partnership at Vinson & Elkins,” he says. Sauer, 51, will handle corporate compliance matters and expects to represent accountants under review by the Public Company Oversight Board created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. At the SEC, Sauer prosecuted market manipulation and insider-trading cases and helped broker financial fraud settlements. Mark Tuohey, Vinson & Elkins’ D.C. administrative partner, says Sauer brings the firm experience in “two of the hottest items on the menu of legal and business concerns” — corporate governance and enforcement. — Marie Beaudette PIPER PARTNER OUT OF MCI CASE Piper Rudnick D.C. partner Thomas O’Neil III has been dropped from representation of the MCI Communications Corp. in the WorldCom Inc. investigations because of an apparent conflict of interest, says MCI spokeswoman Claire Hassett. O’Neil was general counsel to MCI until last summer, when he joined Piper to lead its government controversies practice. Piper continues to represent the telecom company in the WorldCom investigation, as well as on commercial litigation matters, according to Hassett. O’Neil and firm managers declined to comment on the matter. MCI general counsel Michael Salsbury resigned June 10 after a report by U.S. Bankruptcy Court examiner Richard Thornburgh raised doubts about whether the company’s legal department fulfilled its role as internal regulator. — Lily Henning FAITH-BASED COUNSEL GETS ‘SPECIAL’ ASSIGNMENT The White House says it will nominate Scott Bloch, deputy director and counsel to the Justice Department‘s Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, to head the office that protects whistleblowers in the federal government. Bloch would fill the Office of Special Counsel post vacated by Elaine Kaplan in May. Before joining the DOJ, Bloch was a trial lawyer at Stevens & Brand in Lawrence, Kan. Fights over special counsel nominations aren’t common, says Thomas Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower organization. But given a legislative proposal to overhaul whistleblower protections, he says, the Senate “may well subject this nominee to more scrutiny than normal.” Bloch could not be reached for comment. — Marie Beaudette A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN D.C. The American Constitution Society, founded two years ago as a liberal answer to the Federalist Society, will hold its first national convention in Washington from Aug. 1 through Aug. 3. Acting Executive Director Lisa Brown, who served as counsel to then-Vice President Al Gore, says she expects as many as 500 attendees. “There’s such a hunger for this organization right now,” she says, “in large part because the Republicans are in control of the government.” The event features a raft of prominent speakers, including some ideological adversaries. Among the scheduled participants: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Jenner & Block partner Paul Smith, who successfully challenged Texas’ anti-sodomy law before the Supreme Court. Conservative speakers include 4th Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig and James Bopp, general counsel of the National Right to Life Committee. — Otis Bilodeau

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