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HIGH COURT GROUNDS BECOME HIGH-TECH HUB March 29 may be a tough day for technology-dependent lawyers inside the Supreme Court. The Court chamber will be full of them, as the justices consider key cases on the legality of peer-to-peer downloads and on the regulatory regime for cable modem services. (See ” Court Surfs File-Sharing, Cable Cases.”) But not one of the lawyers will be able to stay connected to the outside world while inside the Court: Laptops and BlackBerries are not allowed inside the Court, let alone cell phones and pagers. A lifeline to the outside world is not far away, however. For nearly a year now, the marble plaza and front steps of the Supreme Court have been wireless hotspots � just like your local Starbucks. It’s the brainchild of Greg Staple, a partner in the D.C. office of Vinson & Elkinsand a founder of the nonprofit Open Park Project, which is dedicated to making Internet access available in public spaces. “We thought there was a need for a public test bed for the technologies being debated across Washington,” says Staple, a communications law specialist. The equipment needed to create the hotspot is located at a private building nearby � Staple won’t say which one � and the footprint includes the steps of the Library of Congress next door, then runs across the street from the Court to the Capitol grounds. Already, says Staple, the hotspot in front of the high court has seen steady use, about 15 to 20 log-ons a day. And that number could spike on March 29. Bloggers or Internet news organizations could easily use it to report on what they saw during oral arguments as soon as the arguments are over, he says. Could they also download songs while they are on the steps of the Court � the type of alleged copyright infringement at issue before the justices that day? It’s technologically possible, Staple acknowledges, and logging in is anonymous. But he adds that the project has a clear “acceptable use” policy that prohibits illegal uses. “We don’t want this to be used as a backdoor for illegal Internet activity,” says Staple, “which, of course, is what the Court will be debating inside.” � Tony Mauro TOP DOLLAR Is $475 an hour a reasonable rate for a government contractor to pay an experienced attorney? The comptroller general of the United States thinks so. On March 18, the Government Accountability Office‘s chief auditor ruled that the Social Security Administration should reimburse CourtSmart Digital Systems for legal services at that rate. The company had run up a $190,000 legal bill pursuing a contract protest against the agency. James Roberts, a government contracts partner with D.C.’s Van Scoyoc Kelly, was the attorney placed in the uncomfortable position of having to publicly justify his own rates. Roberts’ key piece of evidence: A January 2003 survey of D.C. billing rates published in Legal Times. “My rate is $475 an hour,” Roberts says, “which I know is in the midrange for people of my experience.” Seth Binstock, an attorney for the Social Security Administration, had argued that the rate was unreasonable, and that the agency was only liable to reimburse at a rate of $150 an hour. � Jason McLure LEAVING W. Neil Eggleston, the co-chair of Howrey Simon Arnold & White‘s white collar practice, is jumping ship to Debevoise & Plimpton‘s D.C. office. Eggleston’s move is the latest in a string of high-profile losses at Howrey. “Neil is just someone who I consider a total star,” says Mary Jo White, chair of Debevoise’s litigation department and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Eggleston, who starts April 1, has held numerous positions in government: deputy chief counsel of the House of Representatives Iran-Contra investigation committee; associate counsel to President Bill Clinton; and a predecessor of White’s as U.S. attorney in New York. Eggleston has also handled a number of high profile cases, including representing then-Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman in an independent counsel investigation and defending the outside board of directors in the Enron scandal. Eggleston, who was vacationing last week, could not be reached for comment. � Emma Schwartz A FINE MESS Riggs Bank, which pleaded guilty in January to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, will learn its punishment on March 29. But U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbinahas yet to approve the plea agreement under which Riggs will pay a $16 million fine for failing to report suspicious transactions involving two major clients: former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and officials of Equatorial Guinea. At a Jan. 27 hearing, Urbina asked how the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia arrived at the $16 million figure and questioned whether it was harsh enough. Last week, prosecutors and lawyers for the bank filed briefs with the court aimed at convincing Urbina to accept the deal. “The fine amount in this proceeding significantly exceeds � by four-fold � the profits derived by the Bank in connection with the EG and Pinochet banking relationships,” wrote Mark Hulkowerof Steptoe & Johnsonon behalf of Riggs. Hulkower also noted that Riggs, which is being purchased by PNC Financial Services Group Inc., also paid a $25 million civil penalty to the Treasury Department and another $8 million to settle civil and criminal claims in Spain. Hulkower, who declines comment, added in his brief, “[A] further financial penalty substantially in excess of the fine proposed could spell the demise of the pending PNC acquisition transaction.” In their brief, prosecutors explained that a larger penalty could possibly cause “a bank failure” that would have a ripple effect on hundreds, possibly thousands, of innocent people. Prosecutors say that it is customary for a judge not to accept a plea until the day of sentencing � Tom Schoenberg SODA SWITCH PepsiCohas hired a new top lobbyist � former Justice Department official Daniel Bryant. Bryant left the DOJ last week after four years, where he served first as the department’s chief congressional liaison and then as head of the Office of Legal Policy. In his new post, Bryant will report to former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who joined the company as general counsel earlier this year. Bryant says he looks forward to working with his old colleague: “I was lucky to have a chance to work with Larry Thompson at the very beginning of this administration.” Bryant, who played a key role in securing passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001, is stepping down as debate heats up over reauthorization of some of the law’s more-controversial provisions. Bryant’s top deputy, Rachel Brand, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is expected to replace Bryant. Brand worked in the White House counsel’s office from 2001 to 2002 under then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, the current attorney general. � Vanessa Blum NEW RULES In his nearly two decades of practicing law, defense attorney Gregory Smithhasn’t been shy about challenging sentencing rules in court he didn’t believe made sense. Now Smith, counsel at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, will have a chance to influence the U.S. Sentencing Commission‘s guidelines from the inside as the new co-chair of the Practitioner’s Advisory Group, the approximately 30-lawyer body that advises the commission. Smith’s chairmanship, which he will share with McKenna Long & Aldridge‘s T. Mark Flanagan Jr., comes just two months after the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Bookerthat the federal sentencing guidelines are advisory rather than mandatory. “It’s a very exciting time to be involved with this,” says Smith, who spent 10 years in Atlanta before coming to Washington for a brief stint as associate counsel to President Bill Clinton. Smith says he and the advisory group will play a key role in evaluating the Bookerdecision. � Emma Schwartz EURO TRIP Sarbanes-Oxley may have crimped the work of lawyers at accounting firms, but those restrictions appear to have benefited law firms. Earlier this month, Pittsburgh-based Reed Smithopened its first office in continental Europe by adding seven Munich lawyers from Luther Menold, a firm tied to Ernst & Young. The act “caused a bit of a shakeout in Europe,” says Reed Smith managing partner Gregory Jordan. “We’re the beneficiary of that.” Jordan adds that the move was brokered by client Federated Investors. But why did the firm choose to set up shop in the Bavarian capital rather than a more-obvious locale such as Frankfurt or Berlin? “The nature of the practice was a good fit,” Jordan says. � Jason McLure

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