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Safety Patrol Eight years might be enough time for a young lawyer to enter a law firm as an associate and be promoted to partner. But that’s still not enough time for the Labor Department to make a ruling. On Jan. 3, the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in an attempt to force the department to expedite its decision on whether employers must foot the bill for safety equipment for millions of workers. “This is an uncomplicated rulemaking on a straightforward, but significant, issue of importance to worker safety and health,” say court records filed by the AFL-CIO. If the appeals court sides with the unions, the suit requests that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration make a decision within two months of the court’s order. The rule dates back to 1994, after the Labor Department maintained that employers had to provide labor workers with safety gear such as goggles, hard hats, earplugs, mesh gloves, and safety harnesses. But unlike other health-related OSHA standards, the rule didn’t say who should pay for the equipment — the employer or employee. And so eight years ago the Labor Deparment stated it would clarify its own rule. The UFCW estimates that because of the absence of a clear ruling, over 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died due to insufficient safety equipment. It also contends that the Bush administration has purposefully dragged its feet because it is beholden to corporate interests. Baruch Fellner, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who’s not involved with the case, says there’s also a jurisdictional issue. “OSHA’s mandate is to ensure safety conditions,” says Fellner, a labor law expert. “If an employer has an effective safety program, but there’s no evidence that any employee is in danger, then OSHA could be found to be without authority here.” Jonathan Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, and Edward Wendell, general counsel for the UFCW, are the attorneys named as representing the unions in the suit.
Going Downtown Like many area residents, Silicon Valley powerhouse Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has jettisoned suburban serenity for D.C. living. On Jan. 16, the firm — whose name partner Larry Sonsini has recently been embroiled by the Hewlett-Packard scandal — opened a new office on K Street after scuttling its 35-lawyer Reston, Va., outpost. “This is a natural evolution because the East Coast is such an important part of our firm,” says D.C. office managing partner Trevor Chaplick. “It’s much more difficult to recruit lateral partners out to the suburbs. And we want to become a 100-lawyer office.” The relocation comes a year after Wilson Sonsini’s chief competitor in life sciences, Cooley Godward Kronish, opened an office inside the Beltway and about six months after Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo closed its Reston office.
Green Aero After less than a year back at his old law firm home, former Commerce Department official Peter Lichtenbaum has joined British defense and aerospace firm BAE Systems Inc. as its vice president of regulatory compliance and international policy. Lichtenbaum, who served as the department’s assistant secretary for export administration from October 2003 to February 2006, will focus on export control and anti-corruption matters. Lichtenbaum had rejoined Steptoe & Johnson, where he’d been a partner prior to his government stint, last spring. At Commerce, Lichtenbaum was responsible for developing the Bureau of Industry and Security’s policies on controlling the export of “dual use” items, or items that can have both commercial and military applications. BAE Systems was recently at the center of a corruption investigation by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office over allegations that it had paid bribes to secure a 6 billion pound (about $12 billion) arms deal with Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced sharp criticism when his government suddenly called off the probe last month. Pressure on Blair intensified last week when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said it had serious concerns about the British government’s decision to call off the inquiry and was said to be expanding its own investigation into whether the move violated Britain’s own laws and its treaty obligations under the international Anti-Bribery Convention.
Start Me Up After two years representing Cyprus-based investment firm Libananco Holdings Co., Crowell & Moring partner Stuart Newberger has something to cheer about. Newberger learned earlier this month that a three-member tribunal had been appointed to handle the case he filed last year on behalf of his client with the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The move gets a dispute moving that’s been frozen in place for three years. The company filed a $10 billion arbitration claim against the Republic of Turkey for taking over the assets in 2003 of two of the country’s hydroelectric companies. Libananco holds the majority of the shares in both companies. “Turkey has refused to pay a nickel to anybody and has refused to acknowledge Cyprus under international law,” says Newberger. Both sides are expected to meet within 30 days to set the schedule for the proceedings. U.K.-based Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Jan Paulsson is the lead lawyer for Turkey.
Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to the legal business scene. Got a tip? Contact Business Editor Anna Palmer at [email protected].

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