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FRIST PLAYS FOR TIME ON NUCLEAR OPTION Now that two of the most controversial circuit court nominees have been voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee � on a straight party-line vote � Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist(R-Tenn.) has all the weapons he needs to pull the trigger on the so-called nuclear option. With Democrats all but certain to filibuster both Janice Rogers Brown for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Priscilla Owen for a seat on the 5th Circuit, it’s now become a question of when Frist will bring the two nominees to the Senate floor. The latest line is that it won’t be this week � that’s being reserved for the massive Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century, which must be reauthorized by May 21. That sets up sometime in late May as the most likely time. Assuming, of course, that Frist does invoke the nuclear option, an arcane parliamentary procedure that would suddenly forbid filibusters on judicial nominations, forcing them all into straight up-or-down votes. While Frist has secured the support of much of the Republican majority, which increased its ranks to 55 members this Congress, he still has to persuade at least 50 members of his caucus to vote to end the judicial filibusters. And there are signs that it won’t be all that easy. “There’s no question about one thing,”notes People for the American Way’s Elliot Mincberg. “If Frist had the votes, they’d already be voting.” At least two Republicans (Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee and Arizona’s John McCain) are opposed; half a dozen more are undecided. And shortly after his committee voted out Owen and Brown on April 21, Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) delivered a lengthy floor speech with generous citations from John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Specter has been mum on how he’d vote on the nuclear option, but his speech � a plea to members of both parties to “vote their consciences” � strongly hinted that he would vote against the Frist proposal. “If we fail,”Specter said, “I fear this Senate will descend the staircase of political gamesmanship and division.” � T.R. Goldman OVER AND OUT George Pappas, the founder of the patent litigation practice at Venable, is jumping ship to Covington & Burling this week. Pappas, whose $10 million book of business includes blue-chip clients like Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoKlineSmith, is taking two other partners � Jeffrey Elikan, who will become a partner at Covington, and Kevin Collins, who will join as counsel. Pappas’ departure is likely to take a toll on the Baltimore-based firm, which brought in about $220 million in revenue in 2004. Pappas, who has had no shortage of outside offers over his 17-year tenure, says he finally decided to leave because he wasn’t able to grow his practice at Venable. “They didn’t have the resources that Covington is prepared to put behind the practice,” he says. But Venable’s managing partner, James Shea, says that’s not the entire story, although Shea doesn’t want to tell it either. Last week, Shea says, he met with Pappas and said, “George, I’ve been thinking about it. . . . It is in the best interest of the firm, and we are asking you to leave the firm.” He declined to elaborate further. Pappas explains the conversation this way: He says a recruiter leaked that Pappas had interviewed with outside firms. “I think what his comment was is that since you have been interviewing and since it appears that you are leaving, it would be best if we begin the transition process,” Pappas says. � Emma Schwartz POGO PICK Powell Goldstein has added a new managing partner to go with its new digs on New York Avenue, N.W. Litigator Allen Rugg has been elected to take over the firm’s 73-attorney D.C. office. Rugg says the firm has space and real estate options to add another 50 lawyers. By when?”We don’t have a specific time frame,”he says, noting that expanding the health care and litigation groups will take precedence over adding new practice areas. The expansion would bring the office closer to the 110-lawyer head count it had three years ago before a split with its 33-lawyer international group. Rugg replaces Alan Parver, who had led the D.C. office since 1999. � JasonMcLure GUILTY PLEA A mostly subdued Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty April 22 to conspiring with the hijackers behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks � even while maintaining that he wasn’t part of that specific plot. “I am guilty of a broad conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction,” Moussaoui told the packed courtroom at theU.S.District Court for theEasternDistrict ofVirginia in Alexandria. “But everyone knows I’m not 9/11 material.” Judge LeonieBrinkema accepted Moussaoui’s plea, saying she believed he fully understood the penalties he faced on the six felony accounts and that he could be facing the death sentence. “He has a better understanding of our legal system than some of the lawyers I have seen in court,”Brinkema said. Moussaoui blamed his lawyers for their handling of his case, saying that they had wrongly portrayed him as insane. Brinkema, too, had strong words for counsel on both sides, blaming them for leaks to the press about Moussaoui’s planned guilty plea. “This cannot continue as a circus,” she said. Brinkema did not set a date for Moussaoui’s sentencing and invited briefs from both sides as to issues involving the death penalty. � Lily Henning WRAYWARD SON Christopher Wray, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, will leave his post May 6 to rejoin the law firm King & Spalding, where he began his legal career more than a decade ago. Wray will chair King & Spalding’s special matters and governmental investigations practice and will split his time between the firm’s home base in Atlanta and its 140-lawyer D.C. office. Wray says the firm hopes to provide one-stop shopping for companies that face overlapping government investigations, shareholder litigation, and public relations problems. “There’s been a sea change in corporate fraud enforcement, and companies in crisis are having to deal with these issues in a whole new way,” he says. While at the Justice Department, Wray played a key role in the government’s crackdown on corporate fraud. In rejoining the law firm where he started his career as an associate in 1993, Wray will fill the void left by his mentor, former King & Spalding partner Larry Thompson. Thompson led the firm’s white collar practice before leaving in 2001 to serve as deputy attorney general and is now general counsel of PepsiCo. � Vanessa Blum AFTERBURN Former Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis chairman R. Danny Huntington announced his departure for Bingham McCutchen last week. The move comes just six weeks after Huntington stepped down from the top post. During his three years in charge, Huntington presided over the firm while it shed dozens of lawyers, saw profits per partner sink from $600,000 to $350,000, and unsuccessfully sought a merger with fellow IP boutique Merchant & Gould. Additionally, according to four former partners, Huntington alienated some partners when he pushed for a change in the firm’s pay structure early in his tenure as chairman that significantly rewarded his rainmaking abilities. “He was compensated like he was at the top of the Empire State Building,”says one former partner. “And everyone else was in the middle of the building or below.” Huntington, traveling in Florida, could not be reached for comment. But new firm chairman Joseph Gess says that Huntington was paid what he was worth and that he would be missed. Accompanying Huntington in the move to Bingham are three other patent interference partners: Malcolm McGowan, B. Jefferson Boggs Jr., and Huntington’s wife, Sharon Crane. � Jason McLure CLOSED DOORS In a surprise move last week, the three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit hearing the case of Federal Bureau of Investigation whistleblower Sibel Edmonds closed the courtroom as Edmonds’ appeal was argued.Even Edmonds herself, who’s represented by Ann Beeson of the American Civil Liberties Union, wasn’t allowed to attend parts of the hearing. But the Justice Department did not ask for the secret hearing. The government was “prepared to argue this case publicly, in an open courtroom, without referring to the classified information itself,” department lawyers said in court documents. Instead, the panel of David Sentelle, Douglas Ginsburg, and Karen LeCraft Henderson made the decision on its own. The District Court last year threw out Edmonds’ case after the Bush administration claimed revealing evidence in the case could harm national security. Edmonds was terminated as a translator after alleging mismanagement and security problems at the bureau. Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor and court secrecy expert, says the closure was done on surprisingly short notice. “The [judges] seemed to treat this question as a rather minor detail,” Turley says. � Lily Henning JUSTICE JAM For a rare hour of public interchange, three Supreme Court justices joked and bantered about the Constitution and life on the Court at the National Archives April 21. Moderated by NBCNews’ Tim Russert and aired on C-SPAN, the dialogue was aimed at raising public awareness of the Constitution, said Richard Stengel, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, the main sponsor of the event. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Stephen Breyer � all members of an advisory board for the center � fielded questions from Russert about international law and greater transparency for the Court. He also asked what the justices did all day. “We read � on the average of 1,500 pages a day,” said O’Connor. Breyer added, “I told my son Michael growing up, ‘Look, if you do your homework really well, you can get a job where you can do homework the whole rest of your life.’ ” Scalia’s response: “ Reading and writing � and I try to squeeze in a little time in between for thinking.” � Tony Mauro

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