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Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has a reputation for compassion in the courtroom, especially when dealing with defendants who confess, cooperate, and convey remorse. But lawyers who know the federal judge say she’s not afraid to dole out harsh punishments, either. “You can’t pigeonhole Judge Huvelle,” says Kevin Baine, a partner with Williams & Connolly and a former colleague of Huvelle’s from her days at the firm. “She approaches every case on the merits.” In the case of fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff , it’s too early to tell how the judge will come down on the one-time king of K Street, who last week pleaded guilty before Huvelle to three felony counts of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The deal reached between Abramoff and the Justice Department recommends a prison term of between nine and 11 years and restitution of more than $25 million. In exchange, Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation, which published reports indicate could include as many as 20 lawmakers as well as their wives and staffers. According to local court rules, Huvelle likely would handle any additional criminal cases related to the Abramoff scandal, which means a number of Washington power players could end up in her courtroom. Huvelle already is overseeing the case of Michael Scanlon, Abramoff’s former business partner who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in November. After serving nine years as a judge on the D.C. Superior Court, Huvelle was appointed to the federal bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. Notable rulings include a 2001 order prohibiting credit bureaus from selling consumers’ personal information to telemarketers, and a 2002 order directing the release of sensitive documents in the case of former FBI translator and whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds. Prior to her career on the bench, Huvelle practiced law at Williams & Connolly for nearly 15 years, eventually becoming partner. When asked how Huvelle will deal with the inevitable spotlight that’s to come, Paul Wolff, another partner with Williams & Connolly, says: “She can handle anything. I don’t think anything frightens her off. She has the skill to take on the most complex matters and the demeanor to take on the most difficult people.” Like, perhaps, politicians?
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected] .

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