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Washington’s antitrust bar is generally applauding the choice of Thomas O. Barnett as acting assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, calling him a respected figure who will follow the law rather than any particular ideology. Most expect him to get the post permanently. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales named Barnett to the post on June 23. Currently a deputy assistant attorney general, Barnett took over on Friday for R. Hewitt Pate, who left Thursday after 2 1/2 years in the division’s top post. Barnett earned his law degree at Harvard after earning a Masters of Science in economics in 1986 from the London School of Economics as a Fulbright Scholar. He received his B.A. from Yale University. “You can count on him giving all sides a fair hearing and then firmly making a decision,” said Stephen Calkins, a professor of law at Detroit’s Wayne State University who has known Barnett for about 10 years. “I think he’s a very talented lawyer, and he will be a credit to the office.” Barnett “is a terrific choice,” said an antitrust lawyer who has dealt with Barnett at the antitrust division. “He’s well-respected by [DOJ] staff, and I’ve been impressed with the extent to which he gets on top of matters, his responsiveness, and the fact that there’s no game-playing when you’re discussing the merits of a case.” Before coming to the DOJ, Barnett was an antitrust partner at Covington & Burling’s Washington office, where he worked with former Assistant Attorney General Charles F. “Rick” Rule, a Reagan appointee considered an opponent of regulatory intervention. But Barnett “is not an ideologue,” said another antitrust lawyer. “He plays things right down the middle. He’ll decide cases based on the law.” People familiar with Barnett said he is likely to maintain the course laid down by Pate, whose priorities were enforcement of anti-cartel laws and promotion of what the bar calls “convergence” in international antitrust laws. They also expect him to enforce the law on well-established grounds, as distinct from the approach of Clinton-era Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein, who looked for innovative theories upon which to bring cases. “I wouldn’t expect any Republican to be out there looking for creative theories,” said the first lawyer. Calkins agrees. “I would be surprised if his appointment made a sharp change in the direction of the division,” he said, “though a new AAG brings new points of emphasis.” Barnett was in charge of litigation in the merger between Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft, which DOJ sought unsuccessfully to block last year. But few expect that loss to deter him from challenging anti-competitive conduct. “I don’t think he’ll be gun-shy,” said the first lawyer. A former colleague described Barnett as “a pretty easy-going guy who knows his stuff” and agreed that Barnett will focus on cases rather than policy issues. “He’s spent most of his career in the law firm environment [rather than academia], so he’ll probably be looking at cases coming over the threshold rather than creating a policy network.” “I think Barnett will be consistent with Hew, thinking about antitrust and intellectual property,” said the first lawyer, who has argued cases alongside Barnett. While in private practice, Barnett was involved in antitrust litigation and issues involving intellectual property as well as e-commerce and sports law. Most observers expect the White House to nominate Barnett for the permanent post. If it does, Barnett will face hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a confirmation vote by the full Senate. The White House has interviewed a short list of private lawyers and one other DOJ official, say people close to the situation, but Barnett is believed to be a shoo-in. Copyright �2005 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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