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Sigh of Relief Steptoe & Johnson, led by firm Chairman Roger Warin, won some major breathing room for its client Vonage Holdings Corp. last week. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted the Holmdel, N.J.-based Internet phone company’s motion for a permanent stay of a lower court’s injunction barring it from signing up new customers. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued the ban last month pending Vonage’s appeal of its ruling that the company’s Internet phone services violated three patents held by Verizon Communications Inc. “The company was at substantial risk of bankruptcy if it didn’t get the stay,” Warin says. “The inability to sign on new customers was crippling to their business model.” The Steptoe team, which also includes partners Scott Doyle, William Bosch, Steven Barber, special counsel Seth Watkins, and associate Daniel Girdwood, now has little time to prepare the appeal. The court set an accelerated briefing schedule for the case, and oral arguments are set for June 25, Warin says. Lawyers out of McGuireWoods’ Richmond, Va., office are handling the case for Verizon. A number of other telecom companies, including Sprint Communications Co., Web Telephony Inc., and Klausner Technologies, also have patent infringement cases pending against Vonage.
Bennett’s Back He’s defended President Bill Clinton from sexual harassment charges and, more recently, Duke lacrosse players during their high-profile tussle with North Carolina prosecutors. And now Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Robert Bennett has hooked another big fish: World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz, who is fighting off a staff revolt and an investigation by the bank’s board into allegations he gave a girlfriend who worked at the bank a hefty raise in violation of bank rules. Bennett rebuffs Wolfowitz’s critics, saying the former deputy secretary of defense and an architect of the Iraq War is a victim of political attacks from opponents of the Bush administration.
Hotel Chain Reaction The healthy appetite of private equity funds for gobbling up hotel chains showed no signs of abating this month. Two weeks ago, the Blackstone Group agreed to sell Extended Stay Hotels to the Lightstone Group for $8 billion in one of the largest hotel deals ever that didn’t involve casinos. And last week, following French hotel group Accor SA’s $1.32 billion sale of the Red Roof Inn chain to a consortium, McLean, Va.-based JER Partners, the private equity investment arm of J.E. Robert Co., announced it had inked a deal to buy Highland Hospitality Corp., a real-estate investment trust that owns 27 hotels spread across 14 states and D.C. Highland was represented by Hogan & Hartson, which has worked on many of the large buyout transactions in the real estate investment trust industry, including Trizec Properties Inc. in its $8.9 billion acquisition by Brookfield Properties Corp. and Blackstone, as well as Carr-America in its $5.5 billion buyout by Blackstone. D.C.-based partner James Showen led the 11-person Hogan & Hartson team on the deal. The pace of REIT deals may slow down a bit, Showen says, but the game isn’t over yet. “We have a few more transactions involving REITs in the pipeline,” he says. O’Melveny & Myers and Allen & Overy represented JER on the acquisition, while James Hanks Jr. and Jeffrey Keehn with Venable’s Baltimore office served as JER’s Maryland counsel to advise it on whether the deal complied with state law. Highland Hospitality was formed under Maryland law like approximately 60 percent of all public REITs. Venable has a busy REIT-related practice, says Hanks, who also served as Maryland counsel for Blackstone’s $23 billion purchase in February of Equities Office Properties Trust. . . . On the flip side, it appears Clear Channel Communications is taking a break from world domination. Clear Channel announced the sale of its television group to Providence Equity Partners for about $1.2 billion. Covington & Burling was the regulatory counsel to Providence in the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2007. The Covington team included partners Mace Rosenstein and Eric Greenberg and associate Enrique Arm.
Revolving Door The D.C. lateral market continues to be hot with King & Spalding beefing up its lobbying and regulatory bench. The firm lured former Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand (now DLA Piper) name partner Lloyd Hand to its Washington office. Hand, who has most recently been spending his time sitting on boards like the Executive Council on Diplomacy and the Council on Foreign Relations, is signing on as a senior counsel in the firm’s government relations practice. The firm also added partner David Bloch, a regulatory lawyer with pharmaceutical and health-care clients, who joined from Reed Smith, and counsel Dan Donovan from the U.S. Senate, where he was the senior investigative counsel for the Senate Committee on Finance. . . . Crowell & Moring is also adding depth to its financial services practice. The firm brought in three bankruptcy and restructuring attorneys a few months after it added nine lawyers to the same group. The additions to the Washington office are partner Monique Almy, from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Matthew Cheney, who is joining the same group as counsel. Mark Lichtenstein joined the New York office as a partner from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
The Spin Zone A legal watchdog is getting its dander up over a survey that either is or isn’t worth reading, depending on who is doing the talking. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform released its annual survey rating the legal climate for business in various states. For the second consecutive year, West Virginia was deemed the worst in the country, while Delaware was at the top for the sixth consecutive year. The study results came from a survey of 1,599 in-house attorneys, and the Chamber says the survey is the primary metric by which companies, policy-makers, and the media measure the legal — and by extension, business — environment of states. The grades were assigned by asking the lawyers to grade everything from venue requirements, to treatment of tort and contract litigation, to timeliness of summary judgments, to juries’ predictability and fairness. Rounding out the top five were Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Maine (vacation hot spots, all.) The survey is being called bogus by the institute’s longtime foes at the American Association for Justice, formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association. “This latest propaganda is a made-up survey primarily of corporate lawyers earning millions of dollars defending their CEOs from being held accountable,” Jon Haber, chief executive officer of the AAJ, said in a statement.
This One Was Just Right

Attorney Gil Keteltas holds up the evidence, a bowl that allegedly contained the porridge that the defendant, Gold E. Locks, consumed, unauthorized, while plaintiff Pop A. Bear, played by Bill Garcia, sits on the witness stand, during Howrey’s “The Trial of Gold E. Locks.” The mock trial was held last week as part of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. The kids played the part of jurors and ultimately found in favor of Gold E. Locks, 18 to 2.

Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to the legal business scene. Got a tip? Contact Business Editor Anna Palmer at [email protected]. Legal Times reporter Jason McLure contributed to this article.

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