Airline deal gets N.Y. and D.C. counsel

The merger of United Airlines parent UAL Corp. and Continental Airlines Inc. will create the largest airline in the world — if the deal gets a green light from antitrust regulators. Rather than tap a usual Wash­ington suspect as antitrust counsel, United stuck with the firm that handled the corporate end of the deal, Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

A triumph of cross-selling? Maybe. But partner Katherine Forrest has handled multiple big deals. She said about 75% of her practice is merger counseling and investigations. Also on the case is Cravath partner Stuart Gold. Continental has hired Paul Yde of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. He’s an ex-Federal Trade Commission lawyer with a long track record before antitrust agencies.

United has seen merger hopes crushed in the past, abandoning a deal with U.S. Airways Group Inc. due to Justice Department opposition in 2001. For that deal, United tapped Steven Bradbury, now at Dechert. — Jenna Greene

Breuer signals about sentences

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer is beating a steady drum about federal judges giving inconsistent sentences in white-collar fraud cases. Breuer, who heads the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, raised the issue at a February conference in Miami, and he brought it up again in congressional testimony on May 4. “We are carefully monitoring what appears to be an increased disparity in white-collar sentencing, particularly in high-loss securities fraud cases,” Breuer said in prepared testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

“Right now, I just want to have a dialogue,” Breuer added later in an interview. He declined to identify cases, but he had alluded to two in February: Randall Treadwell, sentenced in San Diego to 25 years in prison for orchestrating a $40 million Ponzi scheme, versus Eric Butler, sentenced in Brooklyn, N.Y., to five years for lying to clients about how he had invested $1 billion and lost as much as half of it. — David Ingram

So long, farewell

Hogan Lovells ended its first week down 14 lawyers in the United States. But unlike the departures leading up to the May 1 merger, which came primarily from Hogan & Hartson, the recent defections were split evenly between former Hogan and Lovells attorneys. The reason cited for most of the departures? Conflicts. In Washington, a six-lawyer insurance group left to launch an office for Hartford, Conn.-based Shipman & Goodwin. Partner James Ruggeri said the merger created conflicts for his group’s chief client, The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. The Washington office also lost antitrust litigator Jonathan Grossman to Cozen O’Connor. In Chicago, a seven-lawyer insurance group jumped to Foley & Lardner. “In combinations like these, there are going to be some casualties,” Ruggeri said. — Jeff Jeffrey

A complete suit

Roy Pearson Jr.
must be used to disappointment by now. The former administrative law judge gained national attention and mockery in 2007 for his unsuccessful multimillion-dollar lawsuit over a lost pair of pants. Denied reappointment as a judge, he sued the city and others, and lost. He is hoping to catch a break in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — and was scheduled to argue his case on May 11. He raises a number of claims on appeal, including retaliation for his complaints about alleged ethical violations in the Office of Administrative Hearings. He also complains that the federal trial judge who dismissed this case should have been recused. On May 7, however, the circuit abruptly canceled oral argument, stating it would decide Pearson’s case based on the briefs. — Mike Scarcella

Pressed man

Chief Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is taking on added duties as chairman of the executive committee of the Judicial Conference. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. made the appointment of his former D.C. Circuit colleague, who replaces 3d Circuit Chief Judge Anthony Scirica. The seven-member executive committee acts for the policy-making conference between its twice-yearly meetings. One of Sentelle’s new duties is briefing the press after the conference’s closed-door sessions. “That’s not something I’ve ever enjoyed,” he joked. But as a Republican Party leader in North Carolina more than 25 years ago, Sentelle said he got used to dealing with the press. — Tony Mauro

Court ready

Jones Day, which counts 1,100 lawyers in its trial practice group, has added one more. On May 4, defense attorney Henry “Hank” Asbill joined from Dewey & LeBoeuf. In one of his best-known cases, Asbill took on the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of former AOL executive Kent Wakeford, who was cleared of all criminal charges in 2007 and acquitted of civil charges in 2008. At Jones Day, Asbill said he looks forward to spending “the next 10 to 15 years working with young folks” who want to hone their trial skills, as well as litigating securities, antitrust and corporate criminal cases. — Jenna Greene

Unknown to star

Who needs to pass the bar? Two third-year law students who gave separate oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on March 23 have emerged victorious. Dean Razavi of the University of Virginia School of Law won a case about ineffective assistance of counsel. Razavi and classmate Ellen Valentine had taken turns arguing in moot courts. He was picked for the big show the week before. “My heart sank when I got through one line and the judge jumped in,” Razavi said. Duke Law School’s Christopher Vieira argued a Fourth Amendment claim. He, too, had numerous moot courts under his belt. — Andy Jones