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HISTORIC BLACKOUT SHINES LIGHT ON ENERGY LAWS, ISSUES Energy lawyers are gauging the implication of last week’s electricity blackout on their practices and on the industry. “It’s a wake-up call,” says Duane Morris‘ D.C. managing partner, Sheila Slocum Hollis, an energy industry lawyer. While attorneys caution that it’s too early to predict the consequences of one of the largest power failures in U.S. history — which crippled cities in the East, in the Midwest, and in Canada — they say the power companies’ liability for the outage is very limited. Hollis is confident that the blackout will focus public attention not only on the state of aging power grids but also on out-of-date laws that govern the power industry and have been on the books since the New Deal. “The only thing older than the grid itself are the laws that regulate it,” she says. Diana Moss, senior research fellow at the American Antitrust Institute and a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission economist, says the power failure draws attention to a web of legal and economic concerns related to electricity transmission and generation, including the need for state and federal regulators to work together on efforts to beef up the system. “Until the coordination improves, it’s going to continue to be very sticky from a legal standpoint,” says Moss. “Those issues have been on the table for many years, but certainly after [last week's] incident they’ll be even more so.” They will be, if lawyers in New York have anything to say about it. Like thousands of other office workers, attorneys and staff in New York law offices faced a wave of disruptions during last week’s blackout. And for those not on vacation, the outage meant a holiday of sorts — but not the beach variety. The blackout forced the New York offices of Hogan & Hartson and Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman to create impromptu three-day weekends. And with snarled traffic and the lack of a way home, a dozen Covington & Burling employees camped out the night of Aug. 14 in the firm’s midtown offices on Sixth Avenue. “On the whole, everyone was very calm and gracious and professional,” says Judy Wollan, Covington’s New York director of administration. For many firms, emergency plans, including on-site flashlights and radios that were put into place after the Sept. 11 attacks, came in handy. But without a real crisis — and with ample heat and humidity — the pace remained languid, says Wollan. — Marie Beaudette and Lily Henning SUING SUER The scandal stemming from alleged financial abuses by former United Way of the National Capital Area executives is headed for court. Last week, the organization’s board of directors filed two suits against former Chief Executive Officer Oral Suer in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Accusing Suer of defrauding the group and its pension plan, the board seeks at least $2.25 million in damages. The board turned to Covington & Burling partner Eric Holder Jr. last year to organize a forensic accounting investigation into the suspected misdeeds. The resulting report, issued on Aug. 7, revealed some of the questionable dealings the suits allege. Venable partners Philip Harvey, Brock Landry, and Kenneth Hoffman represent the board in the litigation. Federal prosecutors, too, are examining the alleged improprieties, and former local United Way honchos are lawyering up. Suer has retained Graeme Bush of D.C.’s Zuckerman Spaeder. Although not an apparent investigation target, Norman Taylor, Suer’s successor as CEO, has retained James Cole of the D.C. office of Bryan Cave. — Siobhan Roth BULKING UP Patton Boggs took a bite out of the D.C. office of Kelley Drye & Warren, bringing on five members of its corporate finance practice. Partners Norman Antin and Jeffrey Haas brought along three associates — and a solid book of business — to Patton Boggs. “I can’t recall two folks who came in and were busier from the moment they sat down at their desks,” says managing partner Stuart Pape. In Northern Virginia, the firm also added partner Michelle Van Patten Frank. The former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner was hired to help grow the life sciences intellectual property practice the firm has been “quietly building” over the past few years, Pape says. Rounding out the hiring binge, the firm also added Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner Kate Kunz Moseley in Dallas. — Marie Beaudette SCORE ONE FOR THE LAWYERS In a victory for the American Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association, Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week made it clear just what he thought of Federal Trade Commission claims that lawyers are subject to the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act: “Reflects a complete lack of any thoughtful deliberations.” “Seems to ignore the plain language of the statute.” “Appears to be arbitrary and capricious.” Under the 1999 act, financial institutions are required to notify customers of their privacy policies. Based on the law’s definition of “financial activities,” the FTC determined that lawyers who provide tax advice or perform real estate closings are subject to the requirement, too. The ABA, represented by David Roll of Steptoe & Johnson, and the New York Bar, represented by Warren Dennis of Proskauer Rose, filed suit in protest, noting that lawyers are already bound by state ethical codes, which provide stricter regulation of attorney-client privacy and confidentiality. In a 60-page decision denying the FTC’s motion to dismiss the suit, the judge agreed emphatically. Still, the case isn’t over — the bar associations’ motion for summary judgment is due Sept. 26. — Jenna Greene CREW NEWS Last week, there were new developments in a case tied to the 1994 prosecutions of the notorious drug gang known as the Newton Street Crew, whose top leaders had their life sentences dramatically reduced because of misconduct attributed to the lead prosecutor, G. Paul Howes. On Aug. 15, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District filed a brief claiming that a Justice Department report detailing prosecutorial misconduct in the Newton Street case should not be turned over to a defense lawyer in a related case. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the response after ruling in June that an earlier — and similar — argument by the government was insufficient. D.C. Public Defender Service lawyer Sandra Levick has documented several instances where voucher money in the Newton Street case was inappropriately used to pay witnesses in another case. In an Aug. 12 filing, Levick detailed more questionable payments to government witnesses, including a Philadelphia police officer. Howes, now a partner at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, could not be reached for comment. — Tom Schoenberg BAD BOIES The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has outlined 13 steps that it believes Boies, Schiller & Flexner needs to take to remedy discrimination against female associates. Earlier this month, the EEOC determined that the firm, co-founded by prominent litigator David Boies, had relegated women to a lower-paid, nonpartnership track. In a letter sent to the Armonk, N.Y.-based firm’s outside counsel, Ronald Green of Epstein Becker & Green, the EEOC proposed that the firm “codify its two-tiered attorney track, stating (1) qualifications necessary for hire onto the partnership track; (2) the performance requirements to be met for promotion onto the partnership track after hire; and (3) the pay structure for the two different tracks.” The letter, written by Arlean Nieto, an EEOC senior investigator, also asked the firm to lay out its pay structure and to compensate affected female lawyers up to $300,000 in back pay. — Anthony Lin, New York Law Journal SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT More than two years ago, The Washington Post ran a series of news articles and editorials claiming D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Tim Murphy ignored pleas for help by a man who collapsed and died in his courtroom. On Aug. 3, the paper ran a lengthy correction, stating that some of the accounts “incorrectly or incompletely described certain circumstances of the case.” Among the corrections: Murphy didn’t continue to hear cases after the man, Robert Waters, collapsed; Waters didn’t die in the courtroom; and Murphy did not resign from the bench. Accompanying the correction was a letter to the editor written by Murphy’s lawyer, Dwight Murray, a partner at D.C.’s Jordan Coyne & Savits. According to Jo-Ann Armao, assistant managing editor for metro news, Judge Murphy first challenged the reporting in a letter sent to Post Chairman Donald Graham last October. “Because the complaint came one and a half years after the story we didn’t feel there was a timeliness issue,” says Armao of the belated correction. Murray says the judge waited to protest until an investigation by the D.C. Judicial Disabilities and Tenure Commission was finished. In November 2001, the commission found Murphy violated judicial ethics, but voted 4-3 to allow him to remain a senior judge. Tom Schoenberg RECALL WINDFALL The drive to unseat Gov. Gray Davis of California means late nights and hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexpected business for the small group of law firms that do political work in California. On the GOP side, Sacramento’s Bell, McAndrews, Hiltachk & Davidian has been the preferred choice. The firm worked for two of the three committees that pushed the recall and was recently hired as counsel for the gubernatorial campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger also paid Pillsbury Winthrop $50,000 for its work with Bell, McAndrews on behalf of pro-recall committee Rescue California. Representing Davis is San Leandro’s Remcho, Johansen & Purcell and Smith Kaufman of Los Angeles, while his anti-recall committee is using Sacramento’s Olson, Hagel & Fishburn. Hagel also represents Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in his try for governor. Davis’ legal bills are paid out of campaign funds — early on, one of his biggest supporters, the Consumer Attorneys of California, pledged $250,000 to the cause. — Jeff Chorney, The Recorder LET THERE BE ART The D.C. Court of Appeals gave the Phillips Collection, represented by Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn partner Donald Mitchell Jr., the green light to proceed with its expansion. The plans call for the demolition of an adjoining apartment building that the modern art museum purchased, over the objections of the tenants. Since the July 24 ruling, construction of the addition has begun — Lily Henning

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