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GAY-MARRIAGE FORCES MARSHAL THEIR TROOPS A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage may not even have the congressional backing to make it to a vote, but that’s not stopping both sides from marshaling lobbyists and grass-roots support for a fight. Although it would be just the 28th amendment to the Constitution out of thousands introduced since 1789, amendment backers, including conservative Christian groups the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and the Traditional Values Coalition, are mobilizing grass-roots supporters through direct mail, e-mail, and advertisements. And though they haven’t hired outside firms, their own in-house lobbyists are working the Hill. The Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, says his group will lobby Republicans and “Democrats who would like to be convinced to vote for this.” One main target, he says, is Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whose committee will start reviewing proposed amendments at a hearing on Wednesday. Hatch has said he prefers to leave the issue to the states. Amendment opponents, including the gay and lesbian lobbying organization Human Rights Campaign, People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Log Cabin Republicans, and the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees, are using similar tactics. Christopher Labonte, the Human Rights Campaign’s top lobbyist, says his group and other members of the coalition are focusing on staffers and members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, as well as sympathetic congressional offices. Labonte runs a 10-person lobbying operation, and the HRC retains lobby shops Williams & Jensen, Davis & Harman, and Potomac Counsel. “There are a lot of people in the Republican Party who are quietly concerned,” says Manus Cooney, a founder of Potomac Counsel and Hatch’s former chief counsel. Marge Baker, director of public policy at People for the American Way, says the anti-amendment coalition has held briefings for congressional staffers, including one session sponsored by openly gay Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.). Business groups haven’t yet entered the debate, but the HRC’s Daryl Herrschaft says some companies have spoken against similar measures at the state level. “We anticipate that by the time this heats up in the Senate or in the House, we would expect to hear from the business community,” she says. — Kate Ackley and Marie Beaudette TESTING THE WATERS Thousands of D.C. residents may have been drinking water contaminated with lead for years while D.C. Water and Sewer Authority officials looked for ways around notifying customers or making repairs. Sounds like a ripe mix for the plaintiffs bar. But lawyers aren’t tripping over each other on their way to the courthouse just yet. Richard Lewis, head of the toxic tort practice at D.C.’s Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, says his firm has been asked by individual residents and public interest groups to research litigation options. Douglas Fierberg of D.C.’s Bode & Grenier says his firm is also exploring the possibility of filing suit on behalf of more than a dozen potential clients. Neither would talk about what claims would be raised or who would be sued, though the quasi-independent D.C. Water and Sewer Authority and the D.C. government are obvious targets. One possible reason for the hesitation, some lawyers say, is that pursuing a personal injury claim would be difficult — and expensive. WASA is being advised by Beveridge & Diamond, says interim GC Wendy Hartmann Moore — Tom Schoenberg QUIZ SHOW Who says government lawyers don’t make the big money? Department of Justice environmental lawyer Todd Kim, for one, can take $500,000 to the bank. But the 31-year-old didn’t get that check for the long hours he logs at DOJ — he won it on the first episode of Regis Philbin’s revamped “Who Wants to be a Super Millionaire?” on Feb. 22. Kim decided to walk with the half-million rather than risk it on this $1 million question: “Neurologists believe that the brain’s medial ventral prefrontal cortex is activated when you do what?” The answer: “Get the punch line to a joke.” Lawyer Robert Oakley served as a lifeline for his DOJ colleague. “It was tense,” says Oakley, who postponed his birthday dinner with his wife to stay by the phone. Kim couldn’t be reached for comment. — Marie Beaudette BACKING UNCLE SAM A gaggle of individuals and organizations plans to file amicus briefs this week siding with the government in Supreme Court cases challenging the administration’s detention of enemy fighters at Guantanamo Bay. Among those expected to weigh in by the March 3 deadline are the American Center for Law and Justice, the Washington Legal Foundation, and the recently launched Citizens for the Common Defence. Citizens’ co-founder Bradford Berenson, a partner at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, says he may be prevented from signing the organization’s brief because he worked on the issue as an associate White House counsel. In addition, Wiley Rein & Fielding partner Andrew McBride confirms that he is drafting a brief on behalf of several former Justice Department and military officials, and Johns Hopkins University law professor Ruth Wedgwood is spearheading a brief for a coalition of international law professors. In January 2004, roughly 20 briefs came in siding with the detainees. The cases, which are likely to be scheduled for oral argument in April, address the right of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their detentions in federal courts. Last week the Pentagon issued its first formal charges against two Guantanamo detainees, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Al Qosi of Sudan and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al-Bahlul of Yemen. Both men were charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes and will likely face trial before military commissions. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel, one of al-Bahlul’s attorneys, says the defense team plans to launch broad objections to the entire military commission system. “We’re looking to challenge virtually every aspect of the system,” Sundel says. “It’s a fundamentally unfair process.” — Vanessa Blum SPECIAL INTEREST The D.C. Bar Foundation has certainly seen richer days. The foundation, which distributes funding to D.C. poverty law groups, relies on Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts and donations for its revenue. The problem is that declining bank interest rates have meant less IOLTA money to go around. In the District, IOLTA proceeds have plunged from $460,000 in January 2003 to $195,000 this year, according to the Bar Foundation. “This is really a major problem,” says Executive Director Emily Spitzer. One bright spot: Last year, Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky was able to convince its bank, BB&T of Washington, to raise the interest rate on its IOLTA holdings from 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent. “We called our bank [and] we asked them to take a serious look at it,” says Dickstein’s Angelo Arcadipane, the firm’s managing partner emeritus. And it turned out that Dickstein’s request had broad impact: BB&T agreed to the new rate for all 90 of its IOLTA accounts in the District as of Jan. 1. BB&T’s Commercial Deposit Services Vice President Susan Schumacher says, “We just thought it was the fair thing to do.” — Alicia Upano RAMBUS ON A ROLL Rambus Inc.’s bid to collect billions in patent fees got another boost last week with the release of a written decision that sides strongly with the memory chip developer in a Federal Trade Commission action against the company. Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire followed up his Feb. 17 one-sentence order dismissing the commission’s antitrust claims against the Los Altos, Calif.-based company with a 300-plus-page opinion that clears Rambus of violating antitrust law. McGuire says Rambus did not have an obligation to report its patent activities to an industry standards group. The opinion adopted “what we think were correct answers on all points,” says Rambus General Counsel John Danforth, who was assisted in the case by outside counsel Gregory Stone from Los Angeles’ Munger, Tolles & Olson and a Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering D.C. partner, A. Douglas Melamed. — Lily Henning DETROIT’S PISTON Detroit-based Dykema Gossett boosted its D.C. office and insurance practice by adding the four lawyers from Jones & Blouch, a D.C. firm that specializes in corporate securities work. Effective March 1, new partners John Blouch and J. Sumner Jones, of counsel Bruce Dunne, and associate Aneal Krishnamurthy make it 30 Dykema lawyers in Washington. The incentive for the merger came directly from clients, says Blouch. The two firms have many insurance clients in common, including Canada-based Manulife Financial Corp., he says. The merger made sense because “our practices complement each other,” says Stephen Zimmerman, Dykema’s D.C. managing partner. Dykema’s firmwide expansion continues as well. It merges with Chicago’s Rooks Pitts on April 1 and added a group of real estate attorneys from Detroit’s Howard & Howard in February. In less than two months, Dykema will have added 85 lawyers, for a total of 371. — Christine Hines THE NEW ARENT FOX Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn has a new name and a new look. The 62-year-old firm has dropped the names of former partners Earl Kintner, Harry Plotkin, and Edwin Kahn to become simply Arent Fox as part of a re-branding effort. Kintner, a former Federal Trade Commission general counsel and chairman, and Plotkin, who served as assistant general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission, are deceased. Kahn, a former Internal Revenue Service attorney, was a tax lawyer with the firm from 1955 until his retirement in 1986. An Arent Fox spokeswoman says the firm spoke with Kahn about the name change. And to energize its image, the firm is using the outline of a fox in its campaign, managed by Burkey Belser of Greenfield/Belser. “A number of clients were referring to us as ‘the fox,’ ” says managing partner William Charyk. “It’s a little daring, but still retains a lot of dignity.” As part of Arent Fox’s new strategic plan, the firm has also ramped up the profiles of its D.C. real estate, life sciences, and intellectual property practices. — Lily Henning INTERNAL AFFAIRS The saga of Detroit prosecutor Richard Convertino — the assistant U.S. attorney under investigation in connection with his handling of a Michigan case against alleged al Qaeda sleeper agents — is about to get stickier. On Feb. 27, two weeks after Convertino filed a civil suit against Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Justice Department announced the appointment of veteran DOJ corruption prosecutor Craig Morford as special attorney to look into matters related to the Michigan prosecution. In 2002, Morford won a corruption conviction against then-Rep. James Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio). Convertino’s attorney William Sullivan Jr. of Winston & Strawn declined comment. — Vanessa Blum

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