INSIDER, OUTSIDER VIE TO REPLACE DOJ’s VARNEY

Christine Varney‘s July 6 announcement that she’ll soon leave the U.S. Justice Department’s top antitrust post is setting off a swirl of speculation about who will succeed her. Among antitrust lawyers, the early money is on one of two possibilities: an outsider, in Arnold & Porter antitrust head William Baer, and an insider, in Varney’s principal deputy, Sharis Pozen.

The search is sure to get attention because of its enormous impact on the nation’s biggest companies, including AT&T Inc. with its pending $39 billion deal with T-Mobile USA. Baer is a former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s competition bureau, while Pozen, a former antitrust partner at what’s now Hogan Lovells, has been at DOJ since February 2009. Other names lawyers are mentioning: Harvard Law School professor Einer Elhauge, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner William Kolasky and former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Joseph Wayland, who joined Varney’s staff last year.

With a campaign year looming, few expect surprises from Varney’s successor. “They’ll be looking for somebody to continue the present course, which is basically to be pragmatic without being a pushover,” said Mayer Brown partner Richard Steuer. — David Ingram

CUBAN WINS AGAIN — THIS TIME AGAINST SEC

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban just celebrated his team’s first win in the National Basketball Association championships. In Washington, his lawyers are heralding another victory — in a different type of court — in a fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission over access to agency documents, including employee misconduct files.

Cuban’s attorneys filed suit in 2009 in Washington federal district court to squeeze records from the agency tied to the SEC’s insider-trading case against Cuban. Last September, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton criticized the agency over its processing of Cuban’s document demand. The SEC asked for reconsideration. Walton issued a follow-up ruling on July 1, and he didn’t take back his concern. Walton said the SEC must provide additional explanation for refusing to turn over certain documents.

“The opinion confirms that the SEC continues to shirk their responsibilities in providing information under [the Freedom of Information Act] despite demands and admonitions from Judge Walton,” said a lawyer for Cuban, Stephen Best, a partner in the Washington office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

Last year, Cuban offered to pay the SEC to speed up his records request. The agency rejected Cuban’s cash. That offer, Best said, still stands. — Mike Scarcella

NEW CHRISTMAS TRADITION

During the recent spate of 90-plus-degree days, the District of Columbia Board of Ethics and Elections has had Christmas on its mind. The board is embroiled in a not-so-jolly dispute over what it would do if an election was scheduled for Christmas Day. In a lawsuit filed by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld in Washington federal court, the board is accused of violating the rabbi’s constitutional rights by scheduling an election during Passover, when Herzfeld and his congregants are prohibited from voting. The board claims it was only following the laws dictating the scheduling of special elections and, in a now-infamous statement before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in April, maintained that even if the election were slated for Christmas Day, there would be nothing they could do. Herzfeld has repeatedly expressed his doubts about the Christmas claim, calling it “false” in an amended complaint. The board is objecting to the inclusion of what it says are “scandalous” ad hominem attacks on its counsel. Herzfeld responded on July 1, arguing that he has a right to challenge a factual claim made in court. “The Board’s position…is — to put it mildly — difficult to believe,” he said in his brief. — Zoe Tillman

 
BLOCKING AID

The Legal Services Corp. (LSC) is warning that the House Appropriations Committee’s proposal to cut $104 million in funding next year could leave hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals without access to legal assistance. The committee released its proposed fiscal year 2012 budget on July 6. Funding for the LSC would drop by about 26%, from $404 million this year to $300 million. In April, Congress reduced the group’s fiscal year 2011 funding from the original $420 million allocation. According to a statement released by the LSC, the cuts would roll back funding to its lowest level since 1999. “At LSC programs, requests for assistance are increasing. The poverty population eligible for civil legal assistance has grown by 17 percent since 2008, to an all-time high of 63 million Americans. And funding from non-federal sources is decreasing,” LSC President James Sandman said in a statement decrying the congressional proposal. In interviews with The National Law Journal earlier this year for a special report on legal aid, providers expressed concern that federal funding cuts would compound drops in revenue from state budget cuts. — Zoe Tillman

PATENTED MOVES

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided last month that Stanford University failed to specify invention rights in an agreement it signed with Roche Molecular Systems, it stirred the debate about who controls patent rights. Former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh (D), the Venable partner and co-sponsor of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, said universities and nonprofits need to have a mutual understanding with their private-sector counterparts about who controls the patent “before the genie is out of the bottle.” The people who write the agreements “need to be very careful,” Bayh said, with respect to agreements between nonprofits and private investors. The legislation Bayh crafted gave universities and nonprofits control over inventions that were funded using taxpayer dollars. Bayh said the Supreme Court decision didn’t supersede the legislation he helped craft. — Matthew Huisman

REBEL ALLIANCE

Patton Boggs is pushing the Obama administration to recognize the Libyan rebels as that country’s legitimate government. On May 21, the firm signed a renewable monthly contract with the Transitional National Council, the party trying to oust Moammar Gadhafi. “They agreed to pay our fees on an hourly basis but we also agreed that they do not have money now and that we don’t expect them to pay unless and until they actually get money,” said partner David Tafuri. Patton Boggs began offering the council free assistance in March, offering the group international, immigration, banking and legislative advice. Working with Tafuri are firm attorneys and advisors Thomas Boggs, David Dunn, Stephen McHale, Vincent Frillici, Robert Kapla, Matthew Oresman, Shaoul Aslan and Taryn Frideres. News of the contract was first reported by The Hill. — Matthew Huisman

BRADY MOTION

Dennis Henigan spent two decades directing the legal strategy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence — defending gun laws while bringing suits against gun manufacturers and dealers. Now, he’s heading up the group. Henigan is acting president after the departure this month of Paul Helmke, a former mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., who led the gun-control lobby for five years. Henigan said the biggest challenge is managing the fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s two major gun decisions since 2008. “Literally hundreds of claims are being made by people who have been charged with violating our gun laws and are seeking to assert the Second Amendment as a defense,” Henigan said. In 1989, Henigan left the D.C. office of Foley & Lardner, where he was a partner, to found Brady’s Legal Action Project. — David Ingram