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Washington�LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae is getting a second chance to win a $16.5 million contract to provide legal services to the Department of Energy (DOE) for the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada. On Oct. 28, the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia held unanimously that, in awarding the original 1999 contract, DOE hadn’t looked carefully enough at possible conflicts of interest that the winning bidder, Winston & Strawn of Chicago, may have had. In 2001, DOE parted ways with Winston & Strawn because of such a conflict of interest. New York-based LeBoeuf, the only other bidder, had filed suit in U.S. district court, asking for a “directed award” of the contract. Last year, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina turned aside LeBoeuf’s contentions, terming them moot since there was at that time no pending contract proposal by DOE. But the circuit disagreed, noting that, as of April, the department was again looking for outside legal help. Judge Judith Rogers’ opinion sent the case back to the district court, asking it to come up with a remedy for LeBoeuf. Rogers said that one possibility would be for a trial judge to require the DOE to pick LeBoeuf in a new round of bidding. Rogers’ opinion voiced criticism of DOE’s contract procedures. Rogers wrote that the DOE acted inconsistently with its own rules when it accepted at face value a statement by Winston & Strawn that that firm had no disqualifying conflicts. Winston & Strawn had previously represented a Yucca Mountain contractor and, it later emerged, a nuclear-industry trade group. The appeals court also said that the district court should now consider whether the contract with Winston & Strawn violated Nevada legal-ethics rules. The lower court rejected that. James Feldesman of D.C.’s Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, who represents LeBoeuf, said he is “very gratified” by the ruling. Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, which represented DOE, declined to comment. James Thompson, chairman of Winston & Strawn, said, “We continue to believe that we did not have a conflict and that the hearing before the district judge will demonstrate that.”

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