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POST PAID JUDGE $30K OVER ARTICLES ON DEFENDANT’S DEATH Threatened with a libel suit, The Washington Post paid $30,000 to settle a complaint lodged by D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Tim Murphy, court papers reveal. The settlement stems from a series of Post articles and editorials claiming that Murphy in April 2001 ignored the pleas for help from a man who collapsed and died in his courtroom. On Aug. 10, the Post published a lengthy correction and a letter to the editor written by Murphy’s lawyer, Dwight Murray of Jordan Coyne & Savits. The correction stated that some of the accounts “incorrectly or incompletely described certain circumstances of the case,” including the fact that the man didn’t die in the courtroom and Murphy didn’t resign. The Post also agreed to pay $25,000 to a charity selected by Murphy, plus $5,000 in attorney fees to Murray. According to an Aug. 7 letter from associate counsel Eric Lieberman to Murray, the Post made — at Murphy’s direction — a $25,000 donation to the North Country Ministry in North Creek, N.Y. In an Aug. 13 letter addressed to his “colleagues,” Murphy boasted about how he took on the Post and won. Murphy’s letter, along with a copy of a Post letter laying out the settlement, was added last week to the record of a civil suit filed against the District by the family of Robert Waters, the man who collapsed in Murphy’s courtroom. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is presiding over the suit, filed the letter, noting he received it from Murphy, who is not a party to the case. Murphy wrote that the Post articles damaged his reputation and that some on the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure suggested he resign. “They were highly antagonistic,” wrote Murphy, referring to a confidential meeting he had with the seven-member commission. “I believe the Commission was motivated to come after me because of the false information given by the Post.” In November 2001, the commission voted 4-3 in favor of Murphy’s continuing as a senior judge. Murphy wrote that his lawyer had been preparing a libel suit against the Post and when Post lawyers received a draft copy of the complaint, “they offered to settle.” Washington Post Vice President and Counsel Mary Ann Werner declines comment. Murphy and Murray did not return calls seeking comment. “My dad use [ sic] to say you don’t argue with a person who buys ink by the barrel or you never get into a pissing contest with a skunk, but I couldn’t stand the lies about me that led to a very expensive suspension and damage to my repetition [ sic],” Murphy wrote. “I took them on.” Tom Schoenberg BEARING DOWN On Aug. 14, consulting firm BearingPoint Inc. said it overstated its financial success for three quarters of FY 2002 by $10.8 million. Less than a week later, on behalf of BearingPoint shareholder David Berman, D.C.’s Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll, with New York’s Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, filed a securities fraud class action against the McLean, Va.-based company in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Aug. 20 suit also targets one former and three current BearingPoint officers. Judge T.S. Ellis III has the case. “We believe the suit has no merit, and we will vigorously defend against it,” says BearingPoint spokesman John Schneidawind. Formerly known as KPMG Consulting, BearingPoint has not yet tapped a firm to handle the suit. On the plaintiffs’ side are Daniel Sommers, Steven Toll, and associate Christopher Branch from Cohen, Milstein; Steven Schulman, Adrei Rado, and Sharon Lee from Milberg Weiss; and Nadeem Faruqi of New York’s Faruqi & Faruqi. — Siobhan Roth PTO FEE-FOR-ALL For years, the IP bar has complained that Congress unfairly diverts fees paid by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office users and spends the money — $23 million in 2002 — on unrelated programs. Patent lawyers Heath Hoglund and Samuel Pamias-Portalatin of Puerto Rico and Robert Rines of New Hampshire have made inroads. On Aug. 15, Judge Bohdan Futey of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims tossed out most of the government’s motion to dismiss a suit brought by the patent lawyers, who alleged the diversion of fees exceeds congressional authority under the patent clause and the direct tax clause and constitutes an uncompensated taking. Futey ruled that Congress’ actions are “not immune from judicial review,” and that he will consider whether legislation ” ‘increasing, diverting, and rescinding’ patent fees was necessary and proper.” The government is represented by the DOJ’s Brian Mizoguchi and the PTO’s Sean Kelly. — Jenna Greene FROM CHAIRMAN TO GOVERNOR? Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe chairman Ralph Baxter Jr. may have a golden opportunity to enter politics now that West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise is not seeking re-election in 2004. Wise’s announcement earlier this month that he would not pursue a second term left the field open to other Democrats interested in the governorship. Chairman of 575-lawyer, San Francisco-based Orrick for 13 years, Baxter, a Democrat, lived in West Virginia as a child. He has long been rumored to be interested in running for an elective office in the state, and seems to be positioning himself for a political career. Local politicians have lauded Baxter for bringing about 100 jobs to West Virginia with the opening of Orrick’s global operations center in Wheeling last year. He also recently purchased a house in the area, where he and his family have spent the summer. And in another sign of his political interest, he is active with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, serving on the executive committee of dean’s councils. Baxter says he has no intention of throwing his hat into the ring right now, though he didn’t rule out a possible bid in the future. “I am not interested in running for public office now,” Baxter says. Asked if he would seek office in the future, he says, “I don’t know the answer to that. I would not rule it out.” — Brenda Sandburg, The Recorder BRUSSELS BANDWAGON Sidley Austin Brown & Wood opened its doors in Brussels last week. The six-lawyer office will be led by Richard Weiner, former head of Hogan & Hartson‘s Brussels international trade practice. Also jumping from Hogan is partner Laurent Ruessmann, whose practice focuses on EU trade and customs law. Weiner and Ruessmann have served as counsel to the European Commission’s Legal Service on World Trade Organization matters and will be joined by Sidley’s D.C.-based Maurits Lugard, who spent eight years with the European Commission. “Our presence in Brussels makes perfect sense,” says Daniel Price, chairman of the firm’s D.C. international trade and dispute resolution practice. Price, who is overseeing the opening of the outpost, adds that the firm plans to expand the office in coming months with EU competition law capabilities. “The importance of the EU and the European Commission will only grow,” says Price. The firm also has lawyers in London and Geneva. — Lily Henning COUNTRY ROADS Over the river and through the woods go one day’s profits from a D.C. telecom boutique. Seven-lawyer Bennet & Bennet will donate all collectable billings from Aug. 1, as well as contributions from employees, to the Foundation for Rural Education and Development. “We wanted to give back to clients who’ve given so much to us,” says principal Carrie Bennet, who noticed economic depression during her visits to rural telephone company clients. As part of the effort, the firm declared Aug. 1, also its eighth anniversary, the first Rural American Appreciation Day. The three $2,500 grants funded by the firm will go toward a playground in Richmond, Vt., a town park in Atkinson, Ill., and a youth center in Cut Off, La. — L.H. THAYLER LANDS Stephen Thayer, the former New Hampshire Supreme Court justice who resigned three years ago after allegations of judicial misconduct, was recently tapped to be the deputy director of the new Office of National Risk Assessment in the Department of Homeland Security‘s Transportation Safety Administration. Thayer resigned from the court in March 2000 rather than face a grand jury investigation into claims that he tried to influence his own divorce proceedings. His resignation prompted the impeachment of the court’s chief justice, David Brock, who was eventually acquitted. TSA spokesman Brian Turmail says that Thayer was chosen for the job in part because of his experience with “complex privacy issues,” which will come in handy as the office tries to implement the controversial Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening (CAPPS II) Program. From February until he took the TSA post in July, Thayer was executive director of the American Conservative Union. According to Turmail, Thayer was not available for comment. — Marie Beaudette SOURCES OF TROUBLE U.S. District Senior Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will hold a hearing this week on whether reporters from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and CNN must turn over information about sources in a civil case filed against three federal agencies by one-time alleged spy Wen Ho Lee. The former nuclear scientist and his wife sued the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Energy Department in 1999, claiming that the agencies leaked private and false information about Lee to journalists while building a criminal case against him. The federal government prosecuted Lee, who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, for allegedly selling nuclear weapons secrets to China. Lee eventually pleaded guilty to mishandling confidential material. Last year, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood partner Thomas Green, who represents Lee and his wife, subpoenaed reporters who wrote about the Lee probe to find out which government agency their sources worked for. Lawyers for the journalists filed motions to quash, arguing that confidential source privileges would extend to identifying government agencies, and not just to people. — Tom Schoenberg LIFE OF BRYAN Federal Communications Commission whiz kid Bryan Tramont was appointed chief of staff of the agency by Chairman Michael Powell on Aug. 20. Tramont, who replaces Marsha MacBride, faces the challenge of coordinating a sharply divided commission. It’s a task Richard Wiley says the former Wiley Rein & Fielding associate is well equipped to handle. “He’s going to be a great asset to Chairman Powell in that job,” says Wiley. “He’ll help to unify the commission to the extent that it can be.” One of the most important allies for Tramont to gain could be fellow Wiley Rein alum Commissioner Kevin Martin, a Republican who has taken the spotlight as a potential swing vote on key issues. Tramont, 34, has served as a senior legal adviser to Chairman Powell, Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, and former Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth. — L.H.

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