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SMALL WORLD OF PLAYERS ANIMATES DISNEY BID Comcast hired a familiar troupe of lawyers and lobbyists in its effort to storm Cinderella’s castle. Davis, Polk & Wardwell is serving as Comcast’s deal counsel in its $54.1 billion unsolicited bid for the Walt Disney Co. The firm’s cross-country team, which also represented Comcast in its 2002 acquisition of AT&T Broadband, is led by Dennis Hersch in New York. Lawyers Arthur Golden and Ronan Harty in New York and Arthur Burke in Menlo Park, Calif., are reviewing competition issues. The lawyers declined to comment on their work for the Philadelphia-based cable company. Comcast tapped Willkie Farr & Gallagher D.C. lawyers James Casserly and Michael Hammer for Federal Communications Commission matters related to the bid for Burbank, Calif.-based Disney, the company says. The attorneys from the New York-based firm also declined comment. Disney did not return calls regarding its choice of counsel. But Disney veteran A. Douglas Melamed, co-head of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering‘s antitrust department, is a likely candidate, say some members of the antitrust bar. Melamed, who represented the entertainment institution in its 1996 acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., declined comment. But the firm’s ties to Disney go straight to the top: The company’s general counsel is Wilmer alum Alan Braverman, who became head of ABC’s law department in 1996 and Disney general counsel in 2003. If the deal goes through, the FCC would review it to determine whether the combination of the two companies benefits the public. Antitrust review will be conducted by either the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division or the Federal Trade Commission. Last year’s merger between the News Corp., which owns the Fox network, and DirecTV, America’s largest satellite TV group, was reviewed by Justice. But in 2000, the FTC cleared the mammoth combination of AOL/Time Warner. Observers say that given recent attention to the concentration of media ownership on Capitol Hill, a political fight over the merger could prove even trickier to navigate than the regulatory hoops. To help plot a course, Comcast is relying on a lobbyist roster created for the AT&T merger. Comcast consultants include Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates; Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon; and Wise & Associates. The company’s latest in-house lobbyist hire is former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria “Torie” Clarke. — Lily Henning, with T.R. Goldman, Influence SILBERMAN SPEAKS People for the American Way, known for opposing many of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, launched a broadside Feb. 13 against Bush’s choice of Laurence Silberman to co-chair the commission on U.S. intelligence on Iraq. In an e-mail sent to 9,000 journalists, Hill staffers, and liberal supporters, PFAW President Ralph Neas termed Silberman, a senior judge on the D.C. Circuit, “ill suited” for the assignment. “We hope the president reconsiders his decision,” Neas says. The group criticized Silberman for acting as an “unabashed [GOP] partisan” while a sitting judge, citing a 2003 book by conservative-turned-liberal writer David Brock. Neas says Silberman lacks judicial temperament. The proof? A passage from Brock’s book that asserts Silberman “hated [D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia Wald] with a passion.” Wald is also on the commission. “Brock had [former Judge Abner] Mikva and Wald mixed up,” Silberman responds. “My relationship with Mikva was strained, but I have always had the highest regard for Judge Wald. In fact, she spoke at the unveiling of my portrait at the circuit.” Silberman adds, “Brock’s book is a tissue of fictions.” — Jonathan Groner FIRST-DEGREE BLUNDER A D.C. Superior Court judge has thrown out the 1990 first-degree murder conviction and 20-year-to-life sentence of Reginald Gaither, ruling that prosecutors failed to reveal payments to their sole witness. Judge Steffen Graae ruled Jan. 28 that Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Jackson Thomas II should have disclosed before trial how much money the government paid. In 1996, the witness testified Thomas paid him $40 a day for two weeks to a month before being subpoenaed for trial. Graae found that exceeded Justice Department policy. (The actual amount was not known because the government lost the case file.) Says Gaither’s attorney Samia Fam of the D.C. Public Defender Service: “It is regrettable that it took 14 years for the truth to come out about something the government should have revealed before the trial.” U.S. Attorney spokesman Channing Phillips says his office is reviewing the ruling. — Tom Schoenberg LEAVING THE SG After a period of relative stability, fully one-fifth of the attorneys in the solicitor general’s office have announced in the last month that they are departing — leaving in their wake speculation about SG Theodore Olson himself. Four of the roughly 20 lawyers in the elite office that represents the government in the Supreme Court are turning in their morning coats for other jobs. Barbara McDowell, a six-year veteran who previously was with Jones Day, is heading to the Legal Aid Society of D.C. to launch an appellate program; Kent Jones, the office’s longtime tax specialist, starts soon at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in D.C. after two stints in the office spanning 25 years; Jeffrey Lamken, an assistant to the SG for six years, is leaving for private practice; and Austin Schlick, who departed recently after three years in the office, has already begun work as deputy general counsel for the Federal Communications Commission. “They’re all fabulous lawyers, and it will be difficult to find replacements,” says Olson, who chalks up the spate of departures to coincidence. “We’ve had remarkably little attrition, and sometimes it catches up with you.” Is it more than that? Is a palace revolt under way in the staid office? Olson does not think so, and other insiders vigorously agree with him, insisting that the timing is accidental. Office morale is said to be high, and all of the departees who could be reached sang Olson’s praises — which is not to say that all is harmonious. Grumbling can be heard among other lawyers who describe Olson’s management style as sometimes “prickly.” He fires off critical e-mails and memos in the office that have become known as “nasty-grams” or “Teddy-grams.” Asked about his missives, Olson says, “I don’t know where that is coming from. I don’t tend to send memos. And I love the people who work with me.” More important, do the departures foreshadow Olson’s own walk out the door after three years? Olson, 63, knocks down the rumors, but acknowledges he won’t be in the job forever. “I don’t plan to make any decisions until after arguments are over,” meaning late April at the earliest. Olson is a “retired partner” at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and could return anytime — or seek another perch. “Since law school I’ve worked for Gibson, Dunn or the Justice Department — that’s it,” says Olson. “I love this job, on the one hand, and on the other, I like private practice.” Another factor, of course, is whether the president who appointed him is re-elected. — Tony Mauro BIRTH OF A FIRM Sixteen lawyers from the D.C. office of Goodwin Procter have struck out and started their own financial services firm, Buckley Kolar, leaving the Boston firm’s D.C. outpost with just 11 lawyers. Jeremiah Buckley, managing partner of the new firm and former managing partner of Goodwin’s D.C. office, says the late-December parting was a friendly one. Buckley says their practice, with clients such as the Consumer Mortgage Coalition and the Electronic Financial Services Council, had grown profitable and self-sustaining and needed the ability to be flexible with client fee arrangements. Buckley, who started Goodwin’s D.C. office with Joseph Kolar in 1994, says they also wanted more authority to promote talented lawyers. “We felt we needed to be in a place where we had more control,” he says. “We wish everybody at Goodwin the best.” For its part, Goodwin hopes to not only replenish the D.C. office, but expand it, says spokeswoman Melissa Doyle. The firm plans to add real estate, intellectual property, white collar crime, and securities to its existing financial services, litigation, and antitrust practices. — Marie Beaudette PRESCRIPTION FOR CHANGE Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has cleared a path for a sweeping class action that could mean huge payouts for medical students. On Feb. 11, Friedman rejected pleas by medical schools and teaching hospitals that he dismiss the suit, which argues that the system for assigning medical student residency posts violates antitrust laws by preventing students from negotiating pay and benefits. Covington & Burling partner James Atwood, who represents George Washington University and five other defendants, says the order “signals nothing about the merits of the allegations or whether this is a proper class action.” Friedman’s decision allows the case to go forward against 30 of the 36 defendants. Lead plaintiffs lawyer Sherman Marek, a Chicago-based solo practitioner, called the decision a “great step forward for fair wages and safe work hours for residents.” — Lily Henning COLUMBIA ON THE POTOMAC Welcome to Washington, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. The Columbia, S.C.-based law firm is opening a D.C. office with the addition of two top lobbyists from Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy. Leaving PoGo are Butler Derrick Jr., a 67-year-old Democrat who served South Carolina in the House of Representatives for 20 years until 1995, and 57-year-old Leo Coco. The two will open doors at 101 Constitution Ave., N.W. Nelson Mullins says it plans to grow the office from Derrick and Coco to a dozen professionals by year’s end. “The ultimate goal is to begin with a strong government relations presence, to bring the people in to do regulatory work, and [then] expand into a full-service law firm,” says Coco. Powell, Goldstein managing partner Alan Parver says, “Butler and Leo were both good colleagues. We wish them the best of success.” In light of the departures, Powell, Goldstein has put partner Cynthia Berry in charge of its government relations practice. One of Berry’s “mandates,” says Parver, “is to grow the government relations practice aggressively and to get into other subject matters, such as tax and homeland security.” — Kate Ackley, Influence BATTLING PTO’S FEE FLIGHT Bowing to years of pressure from the intellectual property community, Congress has come up with compromise legislation that will end the diversion of patent and trademark fees from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to other government programs. The House Judiciary and Appropriations committees reached an agreement Feb. 10 to amend the PTO fee bill, which now specifies that if the PTO collects fees in excess of the amount Congress appropriates to the agency in a given fiscal year, the excess will be deposited in a special fee reserve fund to be set up in the Treasury Department. The bill also calls for the PTO director to issue a rebate to individuals who have paid user fees through the year if the director decides the reserve fund has sufficient money. The bill is expected to be passed by the full House. “We think it’s very significant because it’s the first time the appropriators have agreed to end diversion,” says Herbert Wamsley, executive director of the Intellectual Property Owners Association. — Brenda Sandburg, The Recorder

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