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The investigation stemming from the influence-peddling deals of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has highlighted how pervasive conflicts of interest can be in Washington. But the probe has created a host of conflicts for the lawyers as well. This much was apparent last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where J. Steven Griles, the former No. 2 at the Interior Department, pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstructing a Senate proceeding. As part of the deal, Griles agreed to waive any potential conflicts of interest his lawyers, Barry Hartman and Brian Stolarz of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, may have had. There were potentially two: First, Hartman had previously represented another witness in the probe. Secondly, his law firm recently merged with Preston Gates & Ellis, a firm that once employed Abramoff. To ensure there was no impropriety, both Griles and K&L Gates lawyered up. Griles hired solo practitioner Stanley Brand. K&L Gates turned to Arent Fox’s Baruch Weiss. But even their lawyers weren’t entirely removed from the investigation. For one, Weiss’ partner John Nassikus had represented Will Heaton, former chief of staff to then-Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio). Both Heaton and Ney also pleaded guilty in the Abramoff probe.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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