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BUSH TEAM PREPS AG NOMINEE FOR FACE-OFF Hardly a creature was stirring in official Washington last week. Even the president was away at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. But attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales and a cadre of Bush administration staffers were busily preparing for Gonzales’ confirmation hearings. One lawyer involved in the process says he hopes the hearings, set to begin Jan. 6, will last just one day � a suggestion that Gonzales’ critics find astonishing. “I’m getting the sense that questions are going to be more numerous than anticipated and tougher than anticipated,” says Ralph Neas, president of D.C.’s left-leaning People for the American Way. “I’m not sure confirmation should be considered a foregone conclusion.” Gonzales, a longtime legal adviser to George W. Bush, currently serves as White House counsel. His role in controversial legal memos related to the application of the Geneva Conventions and the use of torture in the war on terror is likely to dominate his confirmation hearings. Senators may also clash with Gonzales over the administration’s refusal to disclose related records sought by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking Democratic member on the Judiciary Committee. “We’re trying to get answers and haven’t been able to,” says one Democratic committee staffer. “Now this nomination comes up, and we’re being asked to confirm him without full information.” Gonzales’ confirmation team is spearheaded by Jamie Brown, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs. Brown, who previously ran the Justice Department’s legislative affairs shop, did not return a phone call seeking comment. Other key players helping to prep Gonzales include Kyle Sampson, a legal adviser to Attorney General John Ashcroft; Rachel Brand, No. 2 in the DOJ Office of Legal Policy; and David Leitch, current deputy White House counsel. Sampson and Brand both formerly worked in the White House counsel’s office under Gonzales. Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who has had uneasy relations with the White House since arriving at Main Justice in late 2003, is also pitching in, say lawyers involved in the effort. Comey’s office has compiled background information on terrorism investigations, the USA Patriot Act, intelligence reform, and other topics. Incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will preside over Gonzales’ hearings. Specter has not yet indicated whether he plans to invite outside experts to testify. Senators heard from more than 20 outside witnesses during Ashcroft’s confirmation hearings, but did not elicit outside testimony on former Clinton AG Janet Reno. � Vanessa Blum COUNSEL CLASH The president’s policy objectives should not influence legal opinions from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. So say 19 veterans of the influential office, known as the OLC, in a Dec. 21 letter to current Attorney General John Ashcroft and AG nominee Alberto Gonzales. The missive comes in response to a 2002 OLC memo concluding that the president could lawfully authorize torture of terror suspects. The letter proposes 10 principles to guide OLC attorneys in interpreting the law and calls for the rejection of an “advocacy model” of lawyering. “OLC should provide an accurate and honest appraisal of applicable law, even if that advice will constrain the administration’s pursuit of desired policies,” the letter states. The group also urges the OLC to publicly disclose its written opinions whenever possible, stating that more transparency would help “ensure executive branch adherence to the rule of law and guard against excessive claims of executive authority.” All 19 signatories, including former OLC chiefs Walter Dellinger III and Randolph Moss, served under President Bill Clinton. � Vanessa Blum COLE’S LAW The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression awarded Georgetown University Law Center professor David Cole its coveted William J. Brennan Jr. Award at a ceremony at the Supreme Court on Dec. 16. The award is given to those “whose commitment to free expression is consistent with Justice Brennan’s abiding devotion,” says the Charlottesville, Va.-based center. Cole is in the news these days mainly for his post-9/11 work defending aliens and challenging the USA Patriot Act. He was also instrumental in key First Amendment battles over anti-flag-burning laws and content-based restrictions on government grants for artists. Brennan “would give David Cole a huge bear hug,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who hosted the event. � Tony Mauro PLATO’S NEW DIGS When a major scandal breaks in the nation’s capital, it’s a safe bet that Plato Cacheris will be on that list of lawyers who get a call. But now the well-known defense attorney has a new phone number. As of Jan. 1, Cacheris, who has represented everyone from Monica Lewinsky and former Attorney General John Mitchell to accused spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, packed up his list of high-profile clients and left Baker & McKenzie for a tiny boutique specializing in white-collar and commercial litigation.”It is really just an opportunity to practice with some old friends and indulge in a practice that is more suitable to my style,” Cacheris says. The new six-member firm, which was formerly called Trout & Richards and was renamed Trout Cacheris, is a reunion for Cacheris, who worked with both former name partners Bob Trout and John Richards at Dunnells, Duvall, Bennett & Porter. Cacheris was joined at the new firm by Baker & McKenzie partner John Hundley and a small support staff. “It is exciting for us,” says Richards. “It is not every day that you can go out and convince a person of Plato’s international stature to join a boutique firm like ours.” Officials from Baker & McKenzie did not return telephone calls seeking comment. � Bethany Broida FOUL BALL In 1978, gay-nightclub magnate Bob Siegel unhappily sold his Northwest D.C. disco, The Strap, to make way for the construction of the old Washington Convention Center. More than a quarter-century later, Siegel again finds himself in the path of the city’s wrecking ball, this time for the proposed baseball stadium along the banks of the Anacostia River. From behind the electronically secured door of his office in the basement of Glorious Health & Amusements, an adult peep show and video arcade on O Street, S.E., Siegel runs an empire that includes 15 properties within a long fly ball of the proposed stadium. Among his tenants are Secrets, Follies, and La Cage, holders of three of D.C.’s 20-odd remaining nude dancing permits. City regulations make it difficult to transfer those lucrative licenses to new locations, and Siegel says it would be virtually impossible to find another D.C. neighborhood that would welcome a block of male strip clubs. Across South Capitol Street, S.E., from La Cage lies a sprawl of weedy lots Siegel says he had hoped to one day turn into a gay community center. “My dreams are shattered,” he says. Though that may be, he’s already got a price in mind for the city: $16 million. What does he expect D.C. to offer? “Ten million,” Siegel says. Siegel’s retained Dale Cooter of Cooter Mangold Tompert & Wayson to represent him, and he says he’s planning to simultaneously negotiate with and file suit against the city. � Jason McLure SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED Six Navy SEALs filed a lawsuit last week against the Associated Press and one of its reporters, saying that the news service invaded their privacy and endangered their lives by publishing photos showing them interacting with Iraqi prisoners. The photos were published with an article by San Diego AP reporter Seth Hettena, who discovered them on a Web site, Smugmug.com, where they had been stored by one of the servicemen’s wives. The woman believed the site was private, says James Huston, a partner with Morrison & Foerster in San Diego who is representing the SEALs, adding that Hettena “leaned on a digital door and fell into her house.” The photos were published and broadcast worldwide, Huston says. The photos published by the AP appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees; the photos also appear to depict bloodied prisoners. After an inquiry, the Navy concluded that most of the published photos were taken for legitimate intelligence-gathering purposes and showed the SEALs using approved procedures, the AP later reported. The lawsuit, filed in San Diego Superior Court, asks for unspecified damages, including punitive damages, and seeks to bar the AP from using the photos. AP Assistant General Counsel David Tomlin said in a statement that none of the claims have “any solid basis in the law as we understand it.” � Lily Henning

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