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You have to figure that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., the highest-ranking White House official indicted since Watergate, is going to pick the best of the best to defend him. So it’s no surprise to see William Jeffress Jr., a partner at Baker Botts, in his corner. Jeffress is sharing the defense load with Theodore Wells Jr. of New York’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. While there is clearly no junior partner in this powerhouse duo, the Libby case � involving obstruction of justice and perjury charges stemming from the Valerie Plame leak investigation � is being fought in Washington, D.C., Jeffress’ home turf. Around here, Jeffress is well known as a formidable trial attorney with a long record of taking on the tough cases. The Alabama-born Jeffress, 60, is highly regarded for his gracious � some say “old Southern” � courtroom manner and his keen instincts. Jamie Gorelick, a partner at WilmerHale (as well as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and a member of the 9/11 Commission), sings Jeffress’ praises: “He’s very smart and deals on an intellectual level with anyone. . . . He is able to cut through a tremendous amount of chaff and drill down to a basic story line, telling it to a jury or a prosecutor. And he is a man of enormous passion for his cases and clients, so when you have him in your corner, you have him wholly.” Archibald Schaffer, a Tyson Foods executive, was one of those who enjoyed Jeffress’ full attention. When Schaffer was indicted by an independent counsel on illegal gratuity charges, Jeffress won an acquittal at trial. (Although one charge was reinstated on appeal, President Clinton later pardoned Schaffer.) Sometimes a good criminal defense requires cutting your losses. Take another Jeffress client: Martin Grass, the former chief executive of Rite Aid, pleaded guilty on two conspiracy charges and was sentenced to eight years. Earlier in his career, Jeffress won a reputation as the go-to defense attorney in more than a dozen Louisiana cases involving political scandal. He recalls, “I won more than I lost.” Jeffress does not confine his practice to criminal cases. For instance, he represented former President Richard Nixon in a case blocking public access to Watergate tape recordings, and defended Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Saudi defense minister and leader of Islamic affairs, in a civil suit filed by the families of 9/11 victims (the case was dismissed before trial). He also won a landmark ruling under the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring wheelchair access at sports venues. Jeffress’ defense of Libby has the media growling in response to reports that he plans to investigate reporters’ roles in the case and may go after their notes. That strategy threatens to reopen the wounds inflicted by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury tactics last year. But Jeffress and the media have not always been on opposite sides. In 1997 he defended ABC against Food Lion’s attack on a “Primetime Live” report, in which undercover journalists working at Food Lion deli and meat departments snuck in tiny cameras to get video for a story alleging unsanitary practices. While the jury found for Food Lion on the grounds of misrepresentation, fraud, and trespass, Jeffress persuaded the trial judge to slash the punitive damages award of $5.5 million to $315,000, and the appellate court later agreed with ABC’s legal team that Food Lion did not fully prove its fraud claim. The court let stand a $2 award for trespass.

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