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DOJ OFFICIALS LAWYER UP FOR TORTURE SUIT When Canadian citizen Maher Ararcame forward last year with accusations that U.S. authorities had him shipped to Syria to face interrogation and torture because they believed he had connections to a known al Qaeda operative, the Bush administration responded unapologetically. At a November 2003 news conference, Attorney General John Ashcroftsaid only, “In removing Mr. Arar from the U.S., we acted fully within the law and applicable international treaties and conventions.” But a suit filed by Arar in January 2004 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York may force government officials to provide more-specific answers. Several current and former government officials named in the suit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, have lined up veteran defense lawyers to represent them in their personal capacities. Baker BottsD.C. partners Stephen Bragaand John Cassidyhave been tapped by former Deputy AG Larry Thompson,who allegedly signed the order authorizing Arar’s transfer to Syrian custody. Ira Raphaelson,a partner in the D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myersand former aide to then-Attorney General William Barr, is representing FBI Director Robert Mueller III.Baltimore attorney William McDaniel Jr.— who previously represented Clinton advisers James Carville and Sidney Blumenthal — is defending former Immigration and Naturalization Service chief James Ziglar. Braga says the defense team will coordinate closely on a series of motions to dismiss the case. “There are a number of very powerful defenses available to government officials,” he says. Ordinarily, government officials are protected from liability in civil suits under the doctrine of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity does not apply if officials knowingly violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.” Arar, who was born in Syria, was detained by immigration officials in New York in September 2002 after his name appeared on an international terrorist watch list. Approximately two weeks later, Arar says, he was flown to Syria, where he spent 10 months in prison and was routinely tortured. He was released without being charged. Arar’s lawyers say defense attorneys will have a hard time convincing the judge to dismiss the case, particularly in the wake of revelations of prisoner abuse in Iraq. “One would hope that [the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal] would give some concern to courts that they must play a role in overseeing conduct of the executive branch,” says Jeffrey Fogel,legal director for the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights,which brought the suit. Fogel adds, “I don’t blame government lawyers for trying to avoid a decision on the merits in this case.” — Vanessa Blum DEALT OUT Senate Democrats and the White House agreed last week to break the logjam holding up confirmation of several prospective judges. But don’t count on new additions to the D.C. Circuit any time soon. In the deal, President George W. Bush agreed not to make any more recess appointments to the bench. In exchange, Democrats will allow floor votes on 25 federal court nominees. But D.C. Circuit nominees Janice Rogers Brown, Brett Kavanaugh,and Thomas Griffithare not among them, according to a list released by Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.). Even though Griffith may not prove as controversial as Brown or Kavanaugh, “the agreement only affects those who are out of committee,” says Elliot Mincberg of People for the American Way. Griffith has not yet had a committee hearing. Although the White House and GOP senators praised the deal, some conservatives were skeptical. “This deal, on its face, appears to do nothing but give Daschle and his cohorts fodder to continue to deflect attention from the unfair treatment of all of the president’s judicial nominees,” says Jeffrey Mazella of the Center for Individual Freedom. — Jonathan Groner FEELING SUPERIOR President George W. Bush last week nominated a federal prosecutor and a magistrate judge for spots on D.C. Superior Court. Laura Cordero,39, an executive assistant U.S. attorney for external affairs, would replace Judge Shellie Bowers,who stepped down in February. As part of the U.S. attorney’s community prosecution program, Cordero works with local agencies and residents in an effort to fight crime in their neighborhoods. Juliet McKenna,33, a magistrate judge in Superior Court’s Family Court, was picked to fill the seat vacated by Judge Nan Shuker,who retired in January. For two years, McKenna has handled child abuse and neglect matters at the court. If confirmed by the Senate, each will serve a 15-year term. — Tom Schoenberg FLOCKING TO SHEPPARD District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr.is stepping down June 1 to become a partner at the D.C. office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.Howard, who was selected in 2001 by President George W. Bush to run the 360-prosecutor office, says the opportunity to establish a white collar defense practice at Sheppard, Mullin’s D.C. branch was the key factor in his decision. “I believe we can build a fairly formidable group here,” says Howard, 52. “Clearly, what we’ll be looking at is the fraud and public corruption arena.” Howard is bringing Civil Division chief Mark Naglewith him. Since Sheppard, Mullin opened its D.C. office in February 2003, the Los Angeles-based firm has been aggressively luring lawyers from other firms. Edward Schiff,managing partner of the 25-lawyer D.C. office, says the addition of Howard and Nagle will boost the firm’s reputation in the white collar crime area. As of press time, Attorney General John Ashcroft had not named Howard’s interim successor, and some criminal justice officials say a permanent replacement may not be installed until after the November presidential election. — Tom Schoenberg HEALTH IS WEALTH Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglashas hired 13 lawyers from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld‘s health care practice. Eight of the lawyers — partners Philip Green, Allen Farber, Paul Uhrig, Robert McCann, James Barker Jr.,and Jeffrey Ganiban,and associates Elizabeth Stottlemyerand Kelley Taylor— join the firm’s D.C. office, which now will have about 40 lawyers. The health care transactional lawyers, who represent a number of large regional medical centers affiliated with universities, decided to join 260-lawyer Gardner Carton because they were running into client conflicts at 950-lawyer Akin Gump, according to Gardner Carton chairman Harold Kaplan.“One of our core practices is health care,” says Kaplan. “What we’ve done this year is try to focus on our strongest practice . . . as opposed to trying to be all things to all people.” The firm also recently acquired a five-lawyer health care labor and employment boutique, Stickler & Nelson,in Chicago. “These guys were good lawyers,” says Akin Gump chairman R. Bruce McLean.“They think Gardner Carton is a better opportunity for what they do. The health care practice that Akin Gump has is still robust.” — Marie Beaudette DIVERSITY DECISION Piper Rudnickhas named Theresa Cropper,former dean of students at Northwestern University Law School, as its new director of diversity. Cropper, who is based in Chicago, will lead the firm’s Diversity Initiative. While there are no set goals for the program, Cropper says the firm is looking to increase, retain, and promote its number of women and minorities. “If it can happen anywhere, it can happen here,” she says, “because the firm leadership wants it.” The five-year program started in 2002. Cropper is its third director. Before working at Northwestern, Cropper was director of business affairs for singer Stevie Wonder. She also once worked for the Rev. Jesse Jackson. — Bethany Broida OVERTURNED A panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals has overturned the theft conviction of a lawyer accused of misusing his firm credit card to charge personal items. In early 2001, David Van Buren Peerywas found guilty on five counts of theft for charging about $3,700 on a corporate card while he was of counsel at the employment firm Bernabei & Katz.Peery was sentenced to one year’s supervised probation, and the D.C. Bar suspended him from practicing law as a result. But the appellate court, citing insufficient evidence, reversed the conviction and directed the trial judge to acquit Peery of the crime. It may not be over, however. A spokesman at the U.S. Attorney’s Office,which prosecuted the case, says the office is considering filing a petition for an en banchearing. Peery, who argued his own case before the appeals court, could not be reached for comment. Bernabei & Katz also did not return calls. Attorney Joanne Vasco,who assisted Peery on his appeal, says Peery is hoping to return to practice. — Christine Hines SIGN OF THE TIMES Ever been driving on the Beltway and suddenly remember that you need a good real estate or finance lawyer? Perhaps a litigator? Now, a 5-foot-7-inch neon sign will alert you to Reed Smith‘s 65-lawyer Falls Church, Va., office. On May 16, the firm erected the sign on its building to illustrate the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based firm’s commitment to Northern Virginia and to acknowledge the success of the firm’s 1998 merger with Northern Virginia firm Hazel & Thomas,says managing partner James Gallatin Jr.“What better way to celebrate that than sticking our name on the Beltway for everyone to see it?” he asks. “I can’t think of a better way to announce your continuing presence.” The firm recently signed a 13-year lease on the building, and the building’s landlord is spending about $4 million on renovations to the firm’s office. Although he says no one has called to hire the firm after seeing the sign, Gallatin says he hopes people will use it as a landmark. “Tell your friends to meet you at the Reed Smith building,” he says. — Marie Beaudette FRIEND OF HILL The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia gave its “Woman Lawyer of the Year” award to D.C. lawyer Cory AmronHillary Rodham Clinton(D-N.Y.). At a reception, Clinton gave a five-minute talk praising Amron and touting their long friendship. The two served together on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, and Amron succeeded Clinton as chair of the commission in 1991. Amron’s involvement with women’s issues has continued. She now serves as a member of the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity. Amron, 51, says her firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease,where she has worked for nine years and is a partner, has “been very instrumental” in supporting her public service interests. The May 18 event at the National Building Museum drew a crowd of 800. — Jonathan Groner

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