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AFTER THE VIOLENCE: JUDGES RETHINK SECURITY Acting in the wake of recent assaults on judges and their families, federal and state court officials last week called for a full review of security measures both inside and outside courthouses. The Judicial Conference, which sets policy for the federal judiciary, met in Washington, D.C., and passed a resolution on March 15 describing the “crisis in off-site judicial security” as a matter “of the gravest concern to the federal judiciary.” The following day, the National Center for State Courtsannounced its plans for a national summit to be held in April to address safety and security concerns for all court personnel. The summit will be partially funded by a $100,000 Justice Department grant. The group also released a 10-point “blueprint” to improve courthouse safety. The actions came two weeks after the murders of Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey, the husband and mother of Chicago U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, and days after Rowland Barnes, a Georgia state judge, and two others were shot to death in an Atlanta courthouse. “Judges and jurors cannot pursue truth if they or their families are threatened,” said Mary McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts, at a press conference. McQueen noted that a brief survey of state courts around the country last week turned up at least 15 current threats to judges or their families. The Judicial Conference, which comprises judges from all federal circuits and the Court of International Trade, heard from congressional leaders and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said Carolyn Dineen King, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and chair of the conference’s Executive Committee. King said the judges’ concern focused on off-site measures in part because the federal judges targeted in recent decades have been attacked at their homes. — Bethany Broida and Tony Mauro CRIMINAL CHIEF Will Latham & Watkinspartner Alice Fisherbe the next head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division? Three sources close to the DOJ say that Fisher — who served as top deputy to division chief Michael Chertofffrom 2001 until 2003 — will almost certainly be tapped for the post. Fisher, who declines comment, would replace outgoing chief Christopher Wray. If she is nominated, Fisher’s lack of prosecutorial experience is sure to be a major issue on the minds of DOJ line attorneys, say several current and former federal prosecutors. “The most important thing for line prosecutors is to have one of their own,” says one former assistant U.S. attorney. — Vanessa Blum FIGHTING BACK A top Justice Department lawyer is under investigation by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibilityfor practicing law without a license. Michael Sitcov, an assistant director in the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division, was notified in November by the OPR that his law license had been suspended since 2002 for nonpayment of D.C. Bar dues. Sitcov, who says he was unaware of the suspension, immediately paid the bar and was reinstated. Last week, Sitcov, who has been at the department for at least two decades, filed suit against the bar in D.C.’s federal court, claiming that bar officials took action without due process and then refused to reinstate him retroactively. In an affidavit, Sitcov revealed the existence of the OPR probe and said that the DOJ plans to file notices about his suspension in every case he worked on between October 2002 and November 2004. “The damage that would do to my reputation, and to my future employment prospects,” Sitcov stated in the affidavit, “could not be repaired by a favorable judgment in this litigation at some indeterminate point in the future.” Colleen Lauermanof Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, who represents the D.C. Bar, says the bar made no error. Sitcov, through his lawyer, Ross, Dixon & Bell‘s Elizabeth Gere, declines comment. — Tom Schoenberg JUICED Mark McGwire sounded more the solicitor, less the slugger during his tearful, evasive testimony about steroids in baseball before the House Government Reform Committee on March 17. McGwire had help with his lawyerly answers from Hunton & WilliamsMark Bierbower. And although Sammy Sosa has been in the United States for two decades and given dozens of interviews, James Sharpof Sharp & Associates— the lawyer President George W. Bush consulted in the Valerie Plame leak investigation — pinch-hit for the Orioles’ Dominican-born slugger by reading his opening statement for him. The artfully scripted pronouncement stopped just short of a blanket denial of steroid usage, though it seemed to appease the committee. Two players who seemed to come out of the hearings unscathed, Rafael Palmiero and Frank Thomas, were represented by former U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, former Rep. David McIntosh(R-Ind.), and a team from Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Red Sox ace Curt Schilling’s counsel was Edward Hayesof Philadelphia’s Fox Rothschild.And Jose Canseco, whose tell-all book on steroids prompted the probe, was represented by Robert Saunooke, a former attorney general for the Seminole tribe whose Florida-based practice specializes in Native American law. — Jason McLure MERCURY RISING A coalition of states is already lining up to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency‘s new mercury pollution rules released last week. New Jersey, New York, and other northeastern states say that they will bring a lawsuit against the agency for failing to adequately protect the public from harmful mercury emissions and are planning to file a consolidated action in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. It’s the latest installment in a spate of litigation by the states over the EPA’s rewrite of key pollution rules. Since 2003, New Jersey has brought six court challenges against the EPA’s pollution regulations. The EPA mercury rule allows coal-fired power plants to trade pollution “credits,” rather than follow what the states say are stricter rules required by the Clean Air Act. The Bush EPA rule also extends the court-approved 2007 deadline for full compliance to 2018. “This rule doesn’t come close to getting the job done,” says Marc Violette, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. “It’s actually a step backward.” — Lily Henning TOP OF THE CLASS JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s decision to wait was a costly one. Last spring, the investment bank could have paid $1.3 billion to settle a shareholder class action over its underwriting bonds issued by WorldCom Inc. On March 16, one day after former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers was convicted of accounting fraud, and just days before its own trial was to begin in New York, JP Morgan agreed to pony up $2 billion to end the case. Co-lead counsel for the lead plaintiffs in the case, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, were Philadelphia’s Barrack, Rodos & Bacineand New York’s Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman. The two will share a fee of $157 million with a number of other plaintiffs firms. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flomserved as liaison counsel for the underwriters in the case, which was to be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The settlement brought the total payouts in the suit against 16 different underwriters to $6 billion, a record for a securities class action. — Jason McLure, Legal Times, and Michael Bobelian, New York Law Journal CIRCUIT CLOUT Last week, lawmakers considered broadening the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuitin nonpatent matters. A House Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony on legislation that would allow the Federal Circuit — established 23 years ago with a mandate to provide more uniformity and stability to the interpretation and application of patent law — to hear cases in which the complaint does not state a claim under patent laws, but patent issues arise from other pleadings. That means, for example, that the Federal Circuit could hear antitrust and unfair competition cases, which are now not considered by the court. A 2002 Supreme Court decision limiting the Federal Circuit’s jurisdiction has raised concerns that other federal appeals courts hearing cases involving patent questions are creating disparate law — what the Federal Circuit’s advocates say the court was established to prevent. Meredith Addy, a partner at the Chicago intellectual property firm Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, said in March 17 testimony that a new law widening the Federal Circuit’s jurisdiction would allow the court to maintain the clear power to set precedent. — Lily Henning DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE On March 21, the Supreme Courtwill hear what could be a landmark case for domestic violence victims. The issue at stake in Castle Rock v. Gonzalesis whether an individual has a constitutional due process right to compel enforcement of a protective order and a remedy under federal civil rights laws if it is not enforced. Jessica Gonzales sued the town of Castle Rock, Colo., and its police officers for failing to enforce the protective order that she had obtained against her husband. Gonzales contacted the police five times, informing them that her husband had abducted their three children in violation of the order. By the time police responded, Gonzales’ husband had murdered the children. The District Court dismissed Gonzales’ claim, stating that she had no constitutional basis for the suit, but a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuitreversed. The town is appealing the 10th Circuit decision, arguing that it contravenes Supreme Court precedent. John Eastmanof the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif., and John Elwood, an assistant solicitor general at the Justice Department, will argue the case on behalf of Castle Rock. Broomfield, Colo., lawyer Brian Reichelwill argue on Gonzales’ behalf. — Marya Lucas

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