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HOMELAND PICK’S HARD LINE ON IMMIGRATION Last week’s nomination of Michael Chertoff to serve as head of the Department of Homeland Security drew renewed attention to Chertoff’s role in aggressive enforcement of immigration laws after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division from 2001 to 2003, Chertoff signed off on the detention of hundreds of Middle Eastern men on routine immigration violations. The round-up was later criticized in a report from the DOJ inspector general. In November 2001, Chertoff defended the department’s immigration policies before Congress: “There are people who are in custody being detained pursuant to immigration violations. And let’s be clear, those are people who have, essentially, overstayed their welcome in this country. They don’t belong here.” While Chertoff’s brief tenure as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit has received far less attention, his record reveals the same tough approach to immigration offenders. In his 18 months on the bench, Chertoff considered roughly 35 immigration cases; in all but four, he sided with the government. In a case stemming from the asylum application of a Jamaican man who had been beaten and threatened in his home country because he was known to be gay, Chertoff determined that substantial evidence of prejudice against homosexuals in Jamaica was not enough to overturn a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). “While the question is close, under our deferential standard of review we cannot conclude that the Board’s decision was unreasonable,” Chertoff wrote in a November 2004 decision. Chertoff did not return a call seeking comment. Philadelphia immigration lawyer Tahir Mella says Chertoff’s prosecutorial background seemed to “tip the scale” toward the government in close cases. In December 2004, Chertoff wrote an opinion upholding a BIA deportation order finding that a client of Mella’s had not adequately demonstrated a fear of persecution in her native Colombia. In three instances, Chertoff sat on panels that sent cases back to the BIA for further review. In another case, Chertoff dissented from the majority decision to deny review. Chertoff’s dissent involved a Chinese national who claimed that his wife had been forced to undergo an abortion after violating China’s population control laws. An immigration judge found that the man had not presented sufficient support for his story, and the BIA affirmed, without issuing an opinion. Chertoff complained that the lower courts had not provided enough of an explanation. “I could speculate about these matters, but that is precisely what our cases teach that a reviewing court should not do,” Chertoff wrote in his dissent. � Vanessa Blum FAITH FRACAS A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments last week in a case that could help to define the parameters of government-funded faith-based initiatives. The American Jewish Congress filed suit in 2002 against the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, which provides funding and training for young people to teach in both secular and sectarian schools through AmeriCorps. The AJC argued that the program was being used to advance religion in violation of the First Amendment. In July 2004, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that teachers funded through federal grants like AmeriCorps’ can’t teach religion, lead prayers, or engage in other religious activities. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory Katsas argued before Judges Harry Edwards, Karen LeCraft Henderson, and A. Raymond Randolph Jan. 14 that AmeriCorps offered a choice between secular and religious schools. “The program is neutral in every conceivable dimension,” Katsas said. But Daniel Pariser, an Arnold & Porter attorney representing the AJC, countered that because the government chooses which training programs and schools receive funding, individual choice is restricted. � Lily Henning GOOD WORK Pro bono work, a relaxed atmosphere, and good base pay helped catapult five law firms onto Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Atlanta’s Alston & Bird was the highest-ranking law firm on the list at No. 9 and was lauded for its generous maternity leave. Arnold & Porter was next at No. 32. Seattle-based Perkins Coie, ranked 47, was noted for its strong emphasis on collaboration. Bingham McCutchen hit the list for the first time this year at No. 78, notable because the firm has merged five times since 1997. And Morrison & Foerster weighed in at 91 � in no small part because it pays 100 percent of employees’ health insurance premiums. � Emma Schwartz NOT A PRAYER Time is running out, but Sacramento, Calif., atheist Michael Newdow still hopes to stop President George W. Bush from beginning and ending his Jan. 20 inaugural ceremony with prayers by two Protestant ministers. Newdow is expected to appeal U.S. District Judge John Bates‘ decision late Jan. 14 rejecting almost every claim Newdow made in challenging the prayers. Bates said Newdow’s suit mirrored too closely a similar suit he filed and lost after the last inauguration. And Bates doubted he had the authority to enjoin the president from inviting whomever he wanted to speak at his inaugural. At a hearing before Bates in U.S. District Court in D.C. on Jan. 13, Newdow � who addressed the court by speakerphone from California � had argued that the inaugural amounted to state endorsement of religion at “the grandest civic ceremony our nation has.” Newdow made headlines last year for his Supreme Court challenge against the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. White & Case lawyer George Terwilliger III represented the Presidential Inaugural Committee in the case. � Tony Mauro GUN SHOW The latest round of arguments in the District’s attempt to hold the gun industry responsible for gun violence on the city’s streets was back in court last week as lawyers for the District made what is likely their final plea to keep the suit alive. The D.C. Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case en banc after a three-judge panel revived the suit last April. In its complaint, the plaintiffs allege that gun manufacturers and distributors failed to stop the illegal flow of guns into the District and that this unchecked flow has created a public nuisance. But the judges at the hearing Jan. 11 questioned why the plaintiffs were unable to identify even one manufacturer that was directly liable for the harm. “You have to show some reasonable connection to the defendants you are suing,” said Chief Judge Annice Wagner. Lawrence Greenwald, an attorney for Beretta USA, likened the suit to allowing a car accident victim to sue all the major automakers because he didn’t know the type of car that hit him. But some of the judges seemed willing to give the District some room on the public nuisance claim, with Judge Michael Farrell saying that there was “pretty direct causation if they [the plaintiffs] are right.” � Bethany Broida TRUCKIN’ Two law firms are moving to bigger D.C. offices. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker more than doubled its office space with a move over the weekend to the newly renovated Bowen Building at 875 15th St., N.W. The 112,000-square-foot office includes a two-story conference center. Base rent starts at about $40 per square foot. The move comes as the firm’s D.C. head count soars. Last year, the Los Angeles-based firm hired 25 attorneys here, bringing its D.C. total to 100. It expects to increase its ranks by the same number in 2005, says Barbara Berish Brown, the office’s managing partner. Plans for expansion also drove Dewey Ballantine to sign a 15-year lease for 90,156 square feet of office space at 975 F St., N.W. The deal will cost the firm nearly $100 million over the life of the lease and will allow the firm to grow up to 20 percent, says managing partner Alan Wolff. The firm currently has 62 lawyers in its D.C. office. � Emma Schwartz WHISTLE STOP A dozen employees from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel who were involuntarily reassigned to field offices in other parts of the country are asking Congress for help. “We are looking for a meaningful forum and an oversight hearing into the legitimacy of these reassignments,” says Anthony Vergnetti of Shaw, Bransford, Veilleux & Roth, attorney for the employees. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, met with the group last week. The 12 career employees were informed Jan. 6 that they were being transferred to three field offices across the country. The reassignments were part of a reorganization process that, says OSC spokeswoman Cathy Deeds, was designed to enhance field operations. Three government watchdog groups contend that the transfers are actually part of a larger effort to stifle dissent within the office and punish employees who questioned the initiatives of Special Counsel Scott Bloch. � Bethany Broida

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