Scalia visits ‘unsavory’ Vegas

The late Chief Justice Warren Burger once fretted about attending an American Bar Association convention in Las Vegas because the city was “unsavory and unsuitable.” (He went anyway, after Nevada officials demanded an apology.) But current justices are showing no such reluctance. Justice Anthony Kennedy participated in Law Day events there May 1, and last week Justice Antonin Scalia made several appearances. MoveOn.org noted unhappily that Scalia would be attending a reception at a casino owned by Republican funder Sheldon Adelson. Scalia also promoted his latest book co-authored with Bryan Garner, but he showed his usual pique at photographers who lingered to take pictures as he spoke to law students at William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “That’s enough. Enough cameras. Thank you,” he said, according to a local news account. “Last one. Bye bye.” — Tony Mauro

FDA LAWYERS SHUFFLE IN D.C.

In the week after Labor Day, lateral movement tends to spike among firms, and this year was no exception. Amid all the shuffling of attorneys, U.S. Food and Drug Administration attorneys were some of the most active. A group of five attorneys decamped from K&L Gates to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Gary Yingling, Robert Hibbert, Ann Begley, Anthony Pavel and Rebecca Dandeker join Morgan Lewis as partners in the firm’s FDA and health care practice. In an interview, Hibbert said his team made the move to Morgan Lewis to add to the firm’s deep FDA bench with the hopes of growing business. He said the areas of health care and drug devices were two areas with plenty of new issues to keep clients and attorneys busy. “It’s premature to talk about our clients, but we have, between the five of us, a pretty diverse practice,” Hibbert said. “What we’re looking to do is integrate and grow.” Meanwhile, Wiley Rein picked up Sonali Gunawardhana, former regulatory counsel for the FDA. She joins as of counsel. At the FDA, Gunawardhana most recently worked in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. — Matthew Huisman

Judge chides colleagues in narco-terror case

Three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit were in agreement last week, upholding the conviction and life sentence of a man charged in a rare narco-terrorism case. But one of the judges on the panel, Brett Kavanaugh, who heard the case with Chief Judge David Sentelle and Judge Thomas Griffith, had a gripe.

Kavanaugh wrote separately in the September 4 ruling to address claims about ineffective assistance of counsel. The appellate panel ordered the case be returned to the trial level for further hearings about the legal work in the representation of the defendant, Khan Mohammed. Kavanaugh thought his colleagues spent too much time delving into the claims rather than allow the trial judge to assess the merits.

“We owe no special explanation when we remand an ineffective-assistance claim,” Kavanaugh said. “We owe a special explanation only in the rare situations when we resolve the ineffective-assistance claim here at the appellate level.”

Griffith, who wrote the opinion, said the appeals court was not taking a position on the merits of the assistance claim, rooted in whether certain witnesses should have been interviewed. The court, Griffith said, sought to explain its conclusion that there wasn’t enough information to resolve the claim on appeal. — Mike Scarcella

WARRIOR-LAWYER

The founding partner of an employment law firm was awarded the Purple Heart August 20, after he was wounded two weeks before in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. Mathew Tully, founding partner of Tully Rinckey who practices both in the D.C. area and Albany, N.Y., and his unit were attacked by a suicide bomber armed with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device near Pul-i-Alam, the provincial capital of Logar province, according to a release by the firm. No service members were killed in the attack, but Tully is currently recovering from his injuries and is expected to return to the firm next year. Tully, a lieutenant colonel with the New York Army National Guard, has been deployed in Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan. His firm specializes in employment and criminal law and civil litigation. Managing partner Greg Rinckey said in an interview that Tully left for his most recent deployment in February. Rinckey, a former officer with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, said that Tully traveled a lot between outposts, but that he didn’t pry into his colleague’s activities in Afghanistan. “Last I heard he had refused Medivac services and was still over in Afghanistan,” Rinckey said. “It’s a great honor to have him as a partner.” — Matthew Huisman

SLAPPED DOWN

When the U.S. Justice Department this year pitched new rules for counsel access at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, lawyers for detainees swiftly assailed the changes. No new procedures are needed, the attorneys argued. A protective order in place since 2008 was working without a problem, the lawyers said. Last week, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia piled onto the criticism, delivering a stinging rebuke of the government in a ruling that keeps in place the existing attorney-client guidelines. Lamberth questioned the government motivation behind the changes, which would have given the commander of the base greater control over counsel access in detention cases that are no longer pending. “The old maxim ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ would seem to caution against altering a counsel-access regime that has proven safe, efficient and eminently workable,” Lamberth said. — Mike Scarcella

FALSE PROMISES

Talk about ouch. A former Greenberg Traurig lawyer who was described by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a news release last week as a “purported legal counsel who acted anything but lawyerly” was charged for his role in a $27.5 million investment fraud. Michael Casey, 65, who worked at a series of law firms in Florida, including Greenberg Traurig from 2001 until 2007, faces civil and criminal charges for misleading investors. According to the SEC, Casey served first as outside counsel and then as president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Commodities Online. The SEC accuses him, along with two other executives, of “misrepresenting the profitability, structure, and existence of the purported commodities contracts to investors.” Casey could not be reached for comment. — Jenna Greene

THE TALKING CURE

Just a few months after stepping down from the bench in May, retired U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina is back in the saddle, having accepted a job in the Washington office of mediation services company JAMS. He’s in familiar company, becoming the 38th federal judge to join JAMS and third to come from the D.C. courts. Urbina said he consulted with former colleagues from the bench who made the switch to behind-the-scenes mediator and liked that he could have more control over his schedule and workload. “I can be as busy, eventually, as I want to be,” he said. Urbina said he’s looking forward to taking cases, having seen how draining disputes can be once they get to court. — Zoe Tillman