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Yucca Wait or Do It Yourself Arnold & Porter scored a victory for its client Sacramento Municipal Utility District earlier this month, when Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims awarded the utility $39.8 million in damages in a case involving SMUD’s obligation to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. SMUD is the nation’s sixth-largest publicly owned utility — it owns the now-shuttered Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station. A 1983 federal law required SMUD to contract with the Department of Energy for the collection and disposal of its spent nuclear fuel, but due to delays in the opening of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada or any alternate federal storage facility, the government has yet to begin collecting the spent fuel, says Howard Cayne, one of the Arnold & Porter partners working on the case. Forced by the government’s breach of contract, SMUD developed its own “dry storage” system for the spent fuel and initiated a lawsuit against the government in 1998 to recover the costs of building and operating the system. More than 50 other utilities have sued the government on similar grounds. The government, which has traditionally taken the position in these cases that it has no obligation to collect fuel until a repository such as Yucca Mountain is open, is likely to appeal the award, Cayne says. “Rather than waste everyone’s time on more litigation,” he adds, “I’d hope that the government would give serious consideration to settling the cases and focus on resolving the issues with Yucca Mountain and on picking up the fuel.” But the Democrats’ takeover of Congress makes Yucca Mountain’s opening even less likely, as incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is a staunch opponent of the project. Arnold & Porter’s litigation team also included Washington-based partner David Neslin and three attorneys in the firm’s Denver office.
A Do-Over, Please In a Nov. 30 oral argument, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s William Kilberg urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down Maryland’s mandated health benefit statute. The Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, passed by the state legislature last year, requires nongovernmental employers with at least 10,000 employees to spend 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits or pay the difference into a state fund. Kilberg, a partner in the firm’s D.C. office, is representing the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which launched its challenge against the Maryland law in February. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz overturned the measure, which became known as the Wal-Mart law because the retailer is the only known employer that would be affected by it, in July. The judge ruled that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act pre-empts any state laws that mandate employee benefits. San Francisco, New York City, and Suffolk County, N.Y., have passed similar laws seeking to compel employers to spend a certain amount on health care benefits. Gibson, Dunn is also representing RILA in its challenge to the Suffolk County measure, which is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Kilberg says. The 4th Circuit’s decision could be a test case for the 30 other states that currently have “fair share” legislation pending. “I’m sure that they are all looking to see if ERISA’s pre-emptive reach will knock these out,” Kilberg says. Gibson, Dunn partner Eugene Scalia, of counsel Paul Blankenstein, and associate William Jay worked with Kilberg on the case.
Adler Brokers ACC Deal Meanwhile, another Washington-based partner with the firm, Howard Adler, is representing ACC Capital Holdings in the $282.5 million sale of its car-loan subsidiary, Long Beach Acceptance Corp., to AmeriCredit Corp., which the companies announced last week. Founded by Los Angeles billionaire Roland Arnall, ACC Capital Holdings also includes home financing units Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Argent Mortgage Co. Arnall is currently serving as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. LBAC, which has its headquarters in Paramus, N.J., focuses on near-prime auto financing. Other Washington-based Gibson, Dunn attorneys working on the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007, are partner Art Pasternak, of counsel Michael Collins, and associates Anne Benedict and Benjamin Rippeon.
Joining the King’s Court When you’ve got one of the largest international arbitration practices out there, potential laterals come calling. At least for King & Spalding, that’s how Margrete Stevens, lead counsel of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, landed her latest gig. After 17 years at the World Bank, the Denmark native is jumping to private practice as a consultant for King & Spalding in its Washington office. “It’s an area that we plan to grow and want to increase our participation in,” says R. Doak Bishop, head of the firm’s international arbitration practice. “Up until now, almost all our work was handled out of Houston and London. With ICSID headquartered in Washington, we thought we needed someone there.” The practice specializes in foreign investment disputes against governments. Its most recent victory came in July when it won a $165 million award, plus $20 million in interest, for Azurix Corp., formerly Enron Corp.’s water unit, against the government of Argentina. The suit was one in a long line against the country. Azurix argued that Argentina did not honor its contract’s stipulations on rates and didn’t provide infrastructure as promised.
Red Rover, Red Rover Venable is picking off legal talent from one of its biggest clients. Most recently, the firm hired Joseph Ryan, executive vice president and general counsel at Marriott International Inc., as a partner in its Washington office. Ryan, formerly a partner in O’Melveny & Myers’ Los Angeles office, had been with Marriott since 1994 and headed up the hotel chain’s 85-attorney legal team. Ryan worked closely with Venable attorneys on several transactions, including Marriott’s $1.45 billion acquisition of 32 hotels and joint venture interests from CTF Holdings. Venable also lobbies for Marriott on Capitol Hill, pushing for passage of the Terrorism Insurance Act of 2002, among other things. The addition comes after Venable lost two partners to public service. The head of the firm’s health care practice, John Sarbanes, son of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) is exiting to represent Maryland’s 3rd District in the House of Representatives. John “J.B.” Howard Jr. is also leaving Venable after being appointed to become one of Maryland’s three new deputy attorneys general. His father, John Howard Sr., is a partner in Venable’s Towson, Md., office.
Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to the legal business scene. Got a tip for Alexia or Anna? Contact them at [email protected] or [email protected].

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