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Law firms are not a place known for humble hearts and kind words. But those who worked closely with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby during his more-than-30-year career in Washington uniformly lauded his care and dedication in dozens of letters filed with his sentencing papers. The plaudits did little to win leniency with U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who sentenced Libby last week to 30 months behind bars and fined him $250,000. But the approximately 150 letters — which range from those written by a neighbor and law firm secretaries to some of the biggest names in government — detail one of the lesser known periods of Libby’s career: life as a private practice lawyer. While most urged Walton to go easy on a man they knew as “Scooter,” a few (including a teacher) advocated harsh punishment. After graduating from Columbia Law School, Libby began at the firm of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis in 1975. He stayed for six years until joining the State Department under Paul Wolfowitz, then head of State’s policy planning staff. In 1985 he joined another firm, then known as Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, and became partner the next year. Former colleagues remember Libby’s work and attitude fondly. But what probably stood out most for the young lawyer was an associate named Harriet Grant, a Democrat whom Libby would later marry. “When he and Harriet became serious,” Dickstein partner Kenneth Simon wrote, “she chose to leave the firm rather than maintain the awkward situation of an associate dating a partner.” After another stint in public service during the George H.W. Bush administration, Libby went to the firm of Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon. “I recall several instances in which Scooter brought in a new client or matter to the law firm and gave the �credit’ in registering the client or matter to another lawyer,” wrote Edie Albert, Libby’s former associate at the firm. She noted that, when another partner “took credit” for a matter Libby brought into the firm, Libby did not raise an objection. Libby was “the prize” in the package of Mudge Rose lawyers who merged with Dechert in 1995, wrote Frank Eisenhart, a Dechert partner who preceded Libby as the D.C. office’s managing partner. One of Libby’s highest profile clients was Mark Rich, the fugitive businessman. Libby’s co-counsel, Leonard Garment, wrote that during their close partnership, “Scooter habitually protected me from my own imprudence.” Throughout his career, Libby spent a good deal of time on pro bono work — representing artists and a Vietnam veteran — and, as managing partner of Dechert’s Washington office until 2001, he encouraged other lawyers to do so as well. One of Libby’s longtime clients was the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for which he often did work at a reduced rate. Another one of Libby’s pro bono matters involved Richard Armitage, the former undersecretary of state in the current Bush administration who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity. In 1989, Armitage was considered for a post as secretary of the Army. But many opposed the appointment and accused him of “improper business conduct in Vietnam,” Libby’s former law partner David Gries wrote. “I never knew the nature of the accusations, but I do know that Libby successfully defended him without remuneration.” (Armitage eventually withdrew his name.) Many Libby supporters couldn’t understand how such a man could find himself in his predicament: guilty of four felony counts of false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice. Joseph Tate, who represented Libby before the federal grand jury in the CIA leak case, wrote that Libby’s decision to testify was based on the belief that he did nothing wrong. “Clearly if he asserted his privilege as most citizens would, he would not be in the mess he is in,” wrote Tate, a Dechert partner who has known Libby for 30 years. “But he is honest and forthright and wanted to act like a good citizen and assist the investigation.” He added that he “never doubted the honesty of his recollections at that time or now.” One lawyer, however, saw it differently. John Rogers, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., from 1969 to 1972, urged Judge Walton to impose a tough sentence. “Whether he is kind to his dog, a nice guy, a good neighbor, or anything else, is, of course, irrelevant to what he did and continues to do.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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