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O’Melveny & Myers partner Charles Diamond is front and center in the recall litigation — but his firm is trying to stay out of the spotlight. Diamond, who is representing recall proponent Ted Costa pro bono, dropped O’Melveny’s name from the case. It’s unclear to what extent Diamond is using O’Melveny’s resources in the litigation. Diamond, who answered a call made to his Los Angeles office at O’Melveny, referred questions about the issue to partner Robert Willett. “The firm is not representing any party in the recall litigation,” Willett said in a statement. “Chuck Diamond represents Costa as an unpaid volunteer.” Partners at other firms say it is unusual for lawyers to separate themselves from their firms, but it does occasionally happen in politically controversial cases. “It’s uncommon, but not strange,” said Jon Eisenberg, a partner in the Oakland office of Encino-based Horvitz & Levy. “It’s a way of solving a problem of discomfort among some members of the firm as to the firm’s involvement in a case.” Eisenberg filed a petition to the California Supreme Court challenging the placement of initiatives on the recall ballot. He filed the petition in his own name, not to avoid association with his firm but to challenge the election as an individual voter. Perhaps the most prominent recent example of lawyers distancing themselves from their firms was that of the Morrison & Foerster attorneys defending John Walker Lindh, a U.S. citizen caught fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The case was extremely controversial within the firm, and perhaps in response, partner James Brosnahan and his colleagues handled it under their own names. MoFo also said its name was removed from the case because of security concerns. O’Melveny lawyers got involved with the recall during one of the earlier suits. They were brought in at the request of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who is of counsel at Bingham McCutchen’s L.A. office, to assist Bell, McAndrews, Hiltachk & Davidian, a Sacramento firm that also represents the state Republican Party. While Diamond has emphasized that he represents the recall proponents on his own, that may just be semantics, a way for O’Melveny to distance itself from a political hot potato. It’s not as though the O’Melveny lawyers — Diamond, Robert Schwartz, Victor Jih and others — left their offices to work on the case or wrote the briefs on their lunch breaks. Indeed, although the lawyers are pro bono, Rescue California� Recall Gray Davis — the campaign committee advocating the recall with Costa — expects to be billed for research and other expenses accrued at O’Melveny’s Los Angeles office, said Dave Gilliard, Rescue California’s chief strategist. Bell, McAndrews partner Charles Bell Jr. said the O’Melveny lawyers were brought in because of their experience — what he called “briefcase ability” — and because they had the resources of a large firm at their fingertips, which became a necessity due to the severe time crunch of the Ninth Circuit case. Other lawyers involved in the recall fight have maintained their firm connections. Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe partner John Ulin is representing the plaintiffs challenging the recall along with the American Civil Liberties Union. And Pillsbury Winthrop partners represented Costa in a class action that challenged the legitimacy of the signatures collected to place the recall on the ballot. Pillsbury also has given political law advice to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican front-runner in the recall election. “I can think of no political law litigation where the firm has not undertaken it as the firm,” said Pillsbury partner Frederick Lowell, who heads the firm’s three-lawyer political law group. Ulin said he’s not aware of Heller ever distancing itself from an attorney. But he said at his previous firms lawyers have taken on controversial issues that the firm itself did not want to be associated with. If the O’Melveny lawyers hadn’t stepped up, others would have gladly volunteered their time, Bell said. “This was a lot like Florida — high profile [and an] opportunity to do interesting work,” Bell said. Of course, anyone who jumps into political work has to calculate the hot potato factor. Gilliard learned that lesson early on, before the recall qualified for the ballot. Some of the committee’s signature gatherers were being harassed, so the committee met with a lawyer from a “major international firm,” who agreed to take the case. “And then the next day, we were shut down by the firm itself,” Gilliard said. He declined to provide a name, but said he understood that the firm backed out because it didn’t want to be associated with the recall effort. Reporter Brenda Sandburg’s e-mail address is [email protected] . Reporter Jeff Chorney’s e-mail address is [email protected] .

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