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CAFTA Suit The same week President George W. Bush was in Guatemala freestyling about free trade, the Railroad Development Corp. was filing notice. Last week, the RDC submitted claims for arbitration under the Central American Free Trade Agreement against the Republic of Guatemala. This is the first time an American company has invoked the dispute resolution provision under CAFTA. Adding to the intrigue is that Greenberg Traurig Senior Director Regina Vargo is representing the RDC. Before joining Greenberg, Vargo was the chief U.S. negotiator for CAFTA and the assistant U.S. trade representative for the Americas. Partner Ruth Espey-Romero is also heading the Greenberg team. Vargo and Espey-Romero were unavailable for comment. CAFTA was signed in 2005 to promote private-sector investment by giving protection to international investors. The RDC is seeking relief after it rebuilt an abandoned national railway. The Guatemalan government then prevented the railway from privatizing. The RDC says the government’s decree has made the project a financial loser.
More Money When Virginia’s justice system received a sorely needed injection of cash, it was due to a group of Covington & Burling lawyers who got lawmakers’ attention. In late February, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to provide a raise to public defenders and to allow circuit court judges to waive limits on fees paid to court-appointed lawyers. Virginia was the only state in the country with caps that could not be waived. Covington, working pro bono with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, had prepared a federal class action alleging that the system violated the U.S. Constitution. But lawmakers averted a legal fight by promising changes. “The legislation doesn’t accomplish everything that’s needed,” says John Hall, a partner at Covington, who headed the effort. “It was amended to apply only to felony offenses. We’re hoping it will apply to all offenses. But it’s nevertheless a significant step forward.” Applying the cap boost to all cases could happen if Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine proposes the additional waivers in his executive amendments. For decades, defense advocates lobbied for change but lost. “This reform has been a long time in coming,” says Hall, whose team had been working with the lawyers association since 2002. The Covington team includes special counsel Sarah Wilson and associates Josh Carpenter, Brent Starks, Hope Hamilton, Jodi Steiger, Dan Suleiman, and Virginia Desilets.
MLB TV Last week Major League Baseball and DirecTV announced a seven-year, $700 million deal to launch the MLB Channel. The new channel will be part of DirecTV’s basic package and is set to debut in 2009. Maybe. That’s because Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) have already made grumblings that the deal isn’t good for fans, who will have to buy a DirecTV subscription to catch their favorite team. Although that debate is simmering, the deal was certainly notable work for Covington & Burling, which advised MLB. Washington corporate lawyers Doug Gibson and Peter Zern led the Covington team, with Andy Friedman in Washington and Rob Heller in New York providing the tax advice.
Drug Deal Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom continues its march towards the top of the this year’s M&A league tables. The firm represented drug maker Schering-Plough Corp. in its $14.4 billion acquisition last week of Organon BioSciences, the pharmaceuticals unit of Akzo Nobel N.V., a Netherlands-based chemicals giant. D.C.-based partner Paul Oosterhuis and New York-based partner Roger Aaron led the Skadden team. Organon BioSciences is a leading maker of contraceptives and infertility drugs. The purchase will also fill a gap in New Jersey-based Schering-Plough’s late-stage pipeline of experimental drugs, although analysts have questioned the effectiveness of one of those — the schizophrenia drug asenapine. Oosterhuis advised Schering-Plough on the tax aspects of the deal, along with D.C.-based partner Cliff Gross and D.C.-based counsel Eric Sensenbrenner.
Keep On Moving Spring is in the air, but the game of musical chairs between the government and private practice and from law firm to law firm, which hits its peak at the beginning of the year, is far from over. James Mendenhall, former general counsel of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, joined the international trade practice in Sidley Austin’s D.C. office last week. Mendenhall, who served as general counsel for approximately two years, rejoins former colleagues Daniel Price and Andrew Shoyer from his days practicing at Powell Goldstein before he went to the USTR office in 2001. Price, the head of Sidley’s international trade practice; Shoyer; and other trade lawyers made the leap to Sidley a few years ago. . . . The Federal Aviation Administration picked up Fulbright & Jaworski’s Kerry Long. Long, who moved to Fulbright in 2001 from Perkins Coie, headed its aircraft finance group with clients such as Boeing Co., Rolls-Royce, and Mesa Air Group. . . . WilmerHale snagged Robert Woll, the former managing partner of Morrison & Foerster’s Hong Kong office, for its China practice. Woll, a private equity and venture capital expert, will relocate to Beijing, where he will be co-partner-in-charge of WilmerHale’s office there. . . . Meanwhile, recently merged Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis picked up Nicholas Spaeth, former senior vice president and general counsel of H&R Block, for its D.C. office. Spaeth, who also served as North Dakota’s attorney general, will focus his practice on regulatory matters related to corporate governance and financial services.
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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