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CROWELL LOSES ENTIRE SECURITIES PRACTICE Crowell & Moring‘s entire D.C.-based securities regulation and enforcement practice is departing for Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Taking wing are practice chairman Pat Conti and eight other partners, including Richard Morvillo and Jeffrey Robertson. The fate of the dozen-odd associates who worked with the group has yet to be resolved. This isn’t the first time that Morvillo, Conti, and Robertson have said their goodbyes to Crowell. In 1999, the trio left the firm for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, a move Morvillo says was triggered by “personal issues.” But they were back in January 2001. That month, firm Chairman John MacLeod told Legal Times: “I think Rich and Joe have the sense that with our new management structure we really are moving forward.” In hindsight, that forward progress wasn’t fast enough. The reason for the second departure, which was announced July 21: Mayer, Brown is bigger and has affiliated offices stretching from Shanghai to Mexico City. It also generates more profits per partner: $905,000 firmwide in 2004 vs. $705,000 for Crowell’s D.C. office. Those factors make it tough for a midsize firm to hold on to partners in a red-hot practice area. “In the post-Enron era there’s been an explosion of the number of firms that do the work we do,” Morvillo says. “We felt we had to go to a bigger platform that was connected to financial centers in New York and Chicago.” Likely to go with the group are A-list clients such as Wachovia Corp., Ameritrade Holding Corp., and Merrill Lynch & Co., Morvillo says. The move will give Mayer, Brown its first group devoted to Securities and Exchange Commission work, and expand its D.C. office to 140 lawyers. “We’d been searching for this capability for some time,” says Kenneth Geller, partner-in-charge of Mayer, Brown’s D.C. office. The move has set off some soul searching at 280-lawyer Crowell, which has outposts in California, London, and Brussels, but still counts more than 80 percent of its lawyers in its office along Pennsylvania Avenue. “We’re going to be taking a hard look at this,” says MacLeod. Will Crowell look to merge with a bigger firm? “I don’t think so,” he says. “[But] I expect I’m going to continue to get a lot of invitations to the dance.” — Jason McLure
CHAIRMAN HOGAN Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has been named the new chair of the executive committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. Hogan, who was appointed to the position by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, replaces Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The executive committee is responsible for overseeing the federal court system’s policy-making body and works with Congress on legislation and appropriation matters affecting the federal judiciary. Hogan says the biggest issues the committee currently faces are in the areas of budgets, judicial security, and the conference’s relationship with Congress. “We can do better at that,” Hogan says. His appointment is effective Oct. 1. — Bethany Broida
STOPPING SHORT A judicial ethics commission formally admonished D.C. Superior Court Judge Susan Winfield last week for her actions during a traffic stop earlier this year. The D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure determined that “during her arrest and temporary detention . . . Judge Winfield made comments which were reasonably understood to suggest that, as a judge, she was entitled to ‘professional courtesy’ from the police and that her arrest and the charge made against her should be reconsidered.” The commission’s investigation stemmed from a March traffic stop. According to news reports at the time, Winfield was pulled over for speeding in Northwest Washington. She was arrested after she refused to return to her car despite a warning from the arresting officer. She paid a $75 fine and was released. In an interview, Winfield, who has announced her retirement and is seeking senior status, called the whole ordeal “extraordinarily difficult.” The commission concluded that given her more than 20 years on the bench and her record of integrity, sanctions were not warranted. — Bethany Broida
FLIP-FLOP FLAP It is not the kind of flip-flop that usually makes news in Washington. But the ubiquitous summer shoe worn by millions of Americans is responsible for a reversal of its own. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that, despite a finding by a trial judge, a flip-flop is not considered to be a deadly weapon. In 2003, D.C. resident Virginia Stroman was convicted of assault and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon after she hit a neighbor’s daughter in the head with the rubber-soled shoe during a fight, resulting in an injury that required 15 stitches. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brittain McInnis argued in a brief that Stroman wielded the shoes as a dangerous weapon. But in a July 14 opinion written by Judge Eric Washington, the court found, “The description of the flip flop does not suggest that this was an object likely to cause death or great bodily injury.” The court affirmed the assault conviction but threw out the possession charge. Walter Booth, a solo practitioner who represented Stroman during her appeal, says that the flip-flop was never introduced into evidence during the trial, but that it didn’t cause anywhere near the serious bodily harm that would be needed for it to be considered assault with a deadly weapon. “I am glad to see the Court of Appeals went with us on this one,” Booth says. — Bethany Broida
PURE ENERGY J.A. “Lon” Bouknight, former chairman of Steptoe & Johnson and a partner in its electric power practice, has been named executive vice president and general counsel at Edison International. Edison is the holding company for Southern California Edison Co., one of the largest utility companies in the country. “I wasn’t looking to go anywhere,” Bouknight says. “This was out of the blue.” Edison has been a client of Bouknight’s for more than 20 years, and he knows, respects, and likes the senior leadership there. Plus, in his new position he will continue to work with Steptoe attorneys — albeit as a client. — Bethany Broida
NEW WAVE Race may be a sticky subject inside many of the nation’s biggest law firms. But for The Ghatt Law Group, race is part of what defines the business strategy. The Chevy Chase, Md.-based firm opened last month and appears to be the first women- and black-owned communications law shop in the nation. Run by three young attorneys who grew weary of the big-firm lifestyle, the firm caters to small and startup businesses owned by minorities. The attorneys hope to reach out to clients who value having professionals who understand their backgrounds. “People think that racial dynamics don’t come into play,” says Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt, one of the firm’s founders. “People do care about race issues. It’s not exactly a selling point, but they do gravitate to us.” The Ghatt Law Group boasts lower rates — somewhere between $200 and $275 an hour — flexible billing schedules, and the big-firm experience. Among the three of them, their résumés include stints at Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Davis Wright Tremaine; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher. As a result, Ghatt says, they are able to attract companies that might not otherwise be able to afford legal services. So far, it’s worked. In the first month, Ghatt and her partners, Los Angeles-based Fatima Fofana and New York-based Nicolaine Lazarre, have lined up a few dozen clients, including Uptown Movie Network and Hardman Broadcasting Inc. “There’s enough work that we already need to hire,” Ghatt says. — Emma Schwartz
BIRD-DOGGING Alston & Bird beefed up its D.C. practice this month with two lateral hires. The Atlanta-based firm wooed former Howrey partner Dimitri Nionakis, a former associate counsel to President Bill Clinton, and Peggy Whitmore, most recently a senior counsel in the inspector general’s office in the Department of Health and Human Services. The D.C. office, which recently picked up former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Thomas Scully, the former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, now has 75 attorneys, focusing primarily on health, policy, and litigation. Office head Frank Conner says he expects more hiring, pointing out that the firm has signed a lease to relocate the D.C. office to 10th and F streets next May, in a space with room for up to 150 attorneys. — Emma Schwartz
FOR SALE The federal government must come up with a plan to get rid of the Unabomber’s infamous writings. In a unanimous opinion issued July 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered the Sacramento U.S. Attorney’s Office to dispose of Theodore Kaczynski‘s papers in a way that maximizes their value to help pay $15 million in restitution Kaczynski owes to victims of his mail-bombing campaign. The government did not want the papers sold, nor would it allow Kaczynski to donate them to the University of Michigan’s collection of protest literature. Instead, the feds proposed holding a private “garage sale” to determine their value and then paying an equivalent amount of taxpayer money into the restitution fund. “The government’s ‘plan’ plainly fails to serve the victims and their families, for whom — we must not lose sight — the restitution was awarded in the first place,” wrote Judge Michael Daly Hawkins. Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judge William Canby concurred. Kaczynski pleaded guilty to the mail-bomb campaign and was sentenced to life in federal prison in 1998. The court ordered the restitution, but so far the fund has only received about $8,000. The papers and books seized by the FBI from Kaczynski’s Montana cabin include loose-leaf binders, notebooks, math theorems, and something labeled “Autobiography.” There are also dozens of books, everything from John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men to books on history, science, and communism. — Jeff Chorney, The Recorder

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