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Directing the legal affairs of AOL Time Warner Inc. can be a pretty heady gig in itself. But Paul Cappuccio is still on a high from his return to the courtroom. “It is like a drug,” the general counsel says of arguing last fall before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. It helps, of course, that in February the court ruled in his favor. The suit centered around a landmark issue in media law. AOL’s Time Warner Entertainment Co. contested the Federal Communications Commission’s rule barring a business from owning both broadcast and cable television stations in the same market. While Time Warner’s dispute was not based upon a particular transaction, Cappuccio contends that the cross-ownership rule hindered the growth of its WB Television Network. The three-judge appellate panel took the unusual step of vacating the cable/broadcast cross-ownership rule that dates back to 1970. If their decision stands, it could lead to unprecedented consolidation in the television industry, forever altering the media landscape and heralding a new era of deregulation. Time Warner wasn’t the only broadcast organization to challenge the FCC ownership rules. Fox Television Stations Inc. also led several networks in efforts to overturn the cap on national television station ownership. When the two cases were argued together in September 2001, it made for a reunion of the D.C. appellate bar. Presenting Fox’s case was none other than Edward Warren, Cappuccio’s former partner in the D.C. office of Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis. “He’s prepared me for moot courts, and I’ve prepared him,” says Warren. “But I’ve never argued a case alongside him.” INTO THE BREACH The appeals argument was interesting for another reason. Cappuccio hadn’t originally planned to take the spotlight. The GC hired Laurence Tribe to do the oral argument, but the star litigator ended up having a scheduling conflict with a class he teaches at Harvard Law School. So Cappuccio stepped into the breach. “It turned out to be a wonderful week out of my normal business routine,” says the 40-year-old AOL executive. In arguing for his company, Cappuccio took the lead from his mentor, former Attorney General William Barr. Cappuccio worked as an associate deputy attorney general under Barr in the U.S. Department of Justice during the early 1990s. After Barr moved on to GTE Corp., and Cappuccio to Kirkland, Barr called on his prot�g� again. “Regardless of his age, he handled some of our most critical matters that involved complex regulatory issues,” says Barr. It was the younger lawyer, Barr adds, who encouraged him to keep his litigation skills sharp even as a top legal officer. Barr notes that arguing cases “as a general counsel is especially difficult, because you have all these other [responsibilities].” Those skills were recently put to the test when Barr, now GC of Verizon Communications Inc., faced off against the FCC before the U.S. Supreme Court. Both men agree that success in court helps make the case for litigators as general counsel. Cappuccio brought home an unequivocal victory, whereas the rule that Fox challenged was remanded to the FCC for reconsideration. Not everyone’s thrilled with the court’s decision. Andrew Schwartzman, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-�based Media Access Project, says that he’s worried about the D.C. Circuit’s escalating hostility toward the FCC and adds that he plans to ask the Supreme Court to referee. (At press time the FCC hadn’t decided whether to appeal.) Cappuccio quips that he’s ready for another round and that he is looking for more FCC rules to take on. “Go for it,” he jokingly goads his opponents. “I would love a Supreme Court argument!”

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