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PATRIOT ACT PLAN LACKS KEY SUPPORT After weeks of negotiations, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill last week to reauthorize portions of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire at the end of the year. The measure, which would extend the act’s powers while attaching new sunset clauses to two provisions, is co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). But Feinstein’s bipartisan backing doesn’t mean the bill is wildly popular. The bill does not have the endorsement of ranking Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) or the Bush administration, and efforts to reach a compromise that would have the support of the full committee and the Justice Department proved more difficult than committee aides anticipated. “The plan was to take some of the more controversial provisions and address the more prominent concerns,” says one Republican aide on the Judiciary Committee staff, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Whenever you split the baby, you wind up offending people.” The legislation sponsored by Specter and Feinstein does not grant the Federal Bureau of Investigation authority to demand business records in national security investigations without a court order — a power the Bush administration requested. But the proposal also makes only minor changes to existing surveillance authorities that some critics say already give the government too much power. American Civil Liberties Union senior counsel Lisa Graves says the criticism from the Justice Department is part of an administration strategy to make the measure appear more palatable to Democrats. “This bill makes such marginal changes while making the Patriot Act largely permanent, it’s hard to believe any whining from the Justice Department,” Graves says. The Senate bill would require some additional judicial oversight of national security wiretaps that do not name a specific target, law enforcement requests for business records, and so-called sneak-and-peek search warrants. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would reauthorize the Patriot Act with few alterations. — Vanessa Blum
TRIALS & TRIBUNALS Military trials of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay — brought to an abrupt halt last November — could restart as soon as next month. On July 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the president’s authority to try Salim Ahmed Hamdan, an alleged driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, before a military commission. The decision reverses a November 2004 ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who found the military commission procedures unlawful. Hamdan is one of four Guantánamo Bay prisoners charged with violating the law of war. In a statement, Hamdan’s lawyers, Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, said they would appeal the unanimous decision. At a hearing last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pentagon lawyers said they could be ready to proceed with military commission trials within 30 to 45 days of a favorable ruling. — Vanessa Blum
BREAKING UP After 23 years of friendship and nine years in private practice together, former Justice Department prosecutors Barry Coburn and David Schertler are splitting up. Coburn & Schertler will become Schertler & Onorato due to Coburn’s announcement last week that he’ll be joining the six-attorney Trout Cacheris. Both lawyers say the split was amicable. “We had differing views in terms of the direction of the law firm,” says Schertler, former chief of the homicide section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington. “We were thinking of getting larger and Barry preferred to stay small.” Schertler says he hopes to increase the renamed firm’s staff to about 30 lawyers so it can take on large-scale civil and white-collar criminal cases. Trout Cacheris name partner Robert Trout says he and Coburn first broached the subject of the move over breakfast at Jury’s Washington Hotel in Dupont Circle. “We like having a small firm,” Trout says, “and we want to keep it that way.” Coburn says the chance to join Trout Cacheris was “so attractive I had to go for it.” — Jason McLure
MILLION-DOLLAR BENCH Federal appellate judges in Washington are a rich bunch. According to recently released 2004 financial disclosures, almost all the judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are millionaires. Most of the nine active judges on the D.C. Circuit have portfolios worth between $1.5 million and $6 million. The wealthiest is Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, whose personal investments are valued between $5 million and $15 million, according to the report she submitted to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Appointed to a district court in South Carolina by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and elevated to the appeals court by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Henderson owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in Halliburton shares and holds hundreds of thousands in municipal, public school, and public utility bonds. The disclosure forms require judges to list their worth within a range of dollar amounts, so it is impossible to know the exact value of their assets. The most modest bank account, according to disclosures, belongs to Judge Harry Edwards. A law professor at the University of Michigan Law School and Harvard Law School before he was nominated to the appellate bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, Edwards has saved up between $315,000 and $450,000. — Lily Henning
HOME COURT Few Washington policy-makers have held back criticism over the Department of Homeland Security’s bureaucratic maze, and the department’s new nominee for assistant secretary of homeland security for policy, Stewart Baker, is no exception. Baker, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, most recently served as general counsel to the Silberman-Robb Commission, a presidential commission that investigated the failure of U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Baker’s nomination comes as part of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff’s proposed reorganization of the department to focus on mostly potential catastrophic events. Baker, 58, was general counsel of the National Security Administration from 1992 to 1994. At Steptoe, Baker represented an array of technology companies, including Daystar Software Inc., and served as general counsel to the U.S. Internet Service Providers Association. He has been a leading figure in debates over encryption laws and has been involved with a Markle Foundation program that examines national security and civil liberties. “He knows all of the players and has an excellent reputation within the national security community,” says Suzanne Spaulding, managing director for the Harbour Group who worked with Baker on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security. Baker declined to comment, citing his pending confirmation hearing in the Senate. — Emma Schwartz
BATTLE LINES The closely watched whistle-blower lawsuit against McLean, Va.-based Custer Battles now enters the discovery phase after a July 8 ruling by Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The False Claims Act suit accuses the government contractor of overbilling the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq by millions of dollars through the use of sham companies. “We’re going to start putting the facts about their misconduct into the public record,” says Victor Kubli, a lawyer for the whistle-blowers in the McLean office of Grayson & Kubli. Richard Sauber, a partner in the D.C. office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson who represents the embattled contractor, says his client is considering appealing Ellis’ decision to allow the suit to proceed. Sauber says he doubts the case will be settled before its scheduled trial in the fall. — Jason McLure
PICKING OFF PIPER Palo Alto, Calif.-based Cooley Godward picked off three DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary partners to open a D.C. office. The partners — Margaret Kavalaris, Michael Marinelli, and Tami Howie — will be joined by about a half-dozen attorneys from Cooley’s 50-plus-lawyer office in Reston, Va., the firm’s only other East Coast outpost. The three partners will bring to the firm added technology and international trade capabilities as well as clients such as Network Solutions Inc., Silicon Graphics Inc., and Novak Biddle Venture Partners, says Kavalaris, the former D.C. managing partner of the now-defunct Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. Cooley is still scouting out more lateral hires and hopes that it will have at least 20 attorneys when it moves into its downtown office space sometime in the next two months. Joseph Conroy, head of the Reston office, says Cooley hopes to turn the office into a typical D.C. firm with antitrust, FDA, and other regulatory practices. — Emma Schwartz
SECOND CHANCES A D.C. law professor who lost his job and his law license for allegedly accepting a secret settlement in a class action has been approved to practice law in the District again. American University law professor Mark Hager was suspended from practicing law for one year by the D.C. Court of Appeals after one of his clients accused him of entering into a secret deal with Warner-Lambert, the manufacturer of Nix shampoo and the defendant in a class action. As part of the deal, Hager and another attorney received a $225,000 payment in exchange for dropping their claims that the lice shampoo was not as effective as advertised and for keeping the fee hidden from their clients. Hager’s clients received a refund on their shampoo purchase and other concessions. Hager initially argued that the settlement was the best outcome his clients could expect, and D.C. Bar ethics officials sharply criticized him for his lack of contrition. Hager later acknowledged his responsibility. Last week, the D.C. Court of Appeals ordered Hager’s reinstatement. The court did impose conditions: Hager must disgorge about $57,000, plus interest, of the fee he received as well as any tax benefits he may receive from the disgorgement. Hager must also take a CLE class on professional responsibility. The Office of Bar Counsel is still waiting to receive a sworn statement from Hager saying he has met those conditions, according to Senior Assistant Bar Counsel Elizabeth Herman. Hager’s lawyer, Jeffrey Freund of Bredhoff & Kaiser, did not return calls seeking comment. — Bethany Broida

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