Washington Wrap is a weekly look at the biggest legal industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at email@example.com.
The political battle over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will likely focus on issues such as abortion and race-based admissions policies at colleges and universities. But partners at big law firms have their eyes on other critical issues that could have a direct impact on clients.
The president’s pick could determine the fate of key controversies involving administrative law and class actions, to name just two issues of major importance to American business, said Thomas Dupree, who became co-partner-in charge of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s D.C. office earlier this month. Dupree said he knows Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett pretty well, and he thinks the three top contenders for Trump’s selection would all make “terrific” choices.
Dupree predicted that the next justice will limit so-called Chevron deference, named for the judicial deference granted to executive branch agency actions in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. As a result, Dupree said he thought businesses could become more aggressive and have an increasing willingness to push back against their regulators.
The Gibson Dunn partner, whose firm has already helped to limit the reach of class action litigation, said he expected the Supreme Court also to take a tougher line on class actions. The court will be “very aware and sensitive to abuses in the class-action world,” he said.
Of course, Trump’s nominee will first need to navigate a bruising confirmation process that’s likely to begin in the U.S. Senate ahead of the midterm elections in November. While Dupree made no prediction about who the next justice would be, he said he thought the approaching confirmation effort would be managed well.
“I suspect that, in the process of selecting and nominating Justice [Anthony] Kennedy’s replacement, they’ll very much follow the Gorsuch playbook precisely, because it was so successful,” Dupree said.
Time will tell.
Law Firm Moves, News and Notes:
The American Civil Liberties Union said Friday it made a six-figure television ad buy in Alaska and Maine aimed at Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. The leading legal advocacy group opposing the Trump administration’s actions nationwide is looking to move two wild card senators into the ACLU’s corner, particularly on the issue of abortion rights.
The television ads will run through Monday, July 9, when Trump has said he will make his Supreme Court selection public. Other left-leaning groups have already begun organizing a #SaveSCOTUS campaign of activists to gather at various senators’ district offices next week. NARAL Pro-Choice America, SEIU, and People For the American Way are among the groups organizing demonstrations across the U.S. from Alaska to New York City.
The right-leaning opponents of the ACLU and the #SaveSCOTUS coalition similarly began mobilizing after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement and the Judicial Crisis Network made a seven-figure national television ad buy to find #AnotherGreatJustice.
Speaking of prominent vacancies the Trump administration is looking to fill, the Environmental Protection Agency’s top spot changed hands this week and is now occupied by interim administrator Andrew Wheeler, a well-known Washington lobbyist.
Wheeler, former co-leader of Faegre Baker Daniels energy and natural resources practice, fills the vacancy created by the departure of Scott Pruitt, the embattled former EPA chief who resigned after several months of growing criticism on his suspect spending habits and alleged ethical lapses.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Wheeler in April, and Trump has expressed his confidence in the acting head on Twitter.
Washington-based Arent Fox is leading an effort to deliver legal services to migrant parents and children separated at the U.S. southern border.
The Arent Fox team will work closely with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) in Texas and the Southern Poverty Law Center elsewhere, the firm announced this week. The firm also is working with RAICES to train lawyers to provide remote pro bono support to migrants in need of legal services that do not require a lawyer in-person.
The firm said it has also developed an internal fundraising campaign to send money to Central American Legal Assistance, the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, Catholic Charities, the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and other organizations.
Matthew Leno is joining Barnes & Thornburg’s intellectual property department in Washington as partner from McDermott Will & Emery in Boston.
Barnes & Thornburg announced McDermott’s addition alongside its hiring of two other IP partners from McDermott, Peter Siavelis and Matthew Gryzlo, who will practice in Chicago. Leno was with McDermott for approximately 20 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“We’ve been making significant investments in Chicago and other key markets, like Washington, D.C., and [we’re] seeing it reflected in the exceptional legal talent that we’re able to attract and retain on behalf of our clients,” said Mark Rust, Barnes & Thornburg’s Chicago managing partner, in a statement.