ACROSS THE WIDE ANACOSTIA OPPORTUNITY
District of Columbia Councilmember Michael Brown (I-at large) had a clear message for local law firms last week: Help me help you.
Speaking during a panel session about law firms’ contributions to the city’s economy, the chairman of the council’s economic development and housing committee said he was looking for regulatory reforms that might help local industries.
A J.D.-holder and partner at lobbying and consulting shop The Madison Group outside his council job, Brown said he had heard “horror stories” about regulatory hoops faced by local businesses. “You tell us,” he said. “What regulations would you like to see gone?”
There was much talk about host firm McDermott Will & Emery’s recent move east from downtown to a spot near the U.S. Capitol, but Brown urged firms to look even farther in that direction and consider establishing themselves across the Anacostia River. He added that he and some of his colleagues had broached the subject with Congress of waiving the city’s height restrictions east of the river in the hopes of encouraging development. “Our city is open for business,” he said. — Zoe Tillman
PORTRAIT OF A JUDGE
In Courtroom 31 of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, the main hearing room of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, official portraits of appellate judges past and present hang on the walls. There’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. And Kenneth Starr, president of Baylor University. Soon joining the mix: Senior Judge Douglas Ginsburg, whose portrait, by artist Simmie Knox, was unveiled last week. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and Senior Judge Harry Edwards of the D.C. Circuit were among those who spoke during the ceremony.
Ginsburg, a former D.C. Circuit chief judge who took senior status this year, now teaches courses at New York University School of Law that include corporate governance and administrative law. In addition to Ginsburg, Knox has painted portraits of Edwards, D.C. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers and former President Bill Clinton, among many other judges and public officials. Edwards, a former D.C. Circuit chief and longtime Ginsburg friend, ended his remarks during the unveiling with this: “Who would have thought that when we first met 36 years ago, we were destined to end up ‘hanging together’ through posterity?” — Mike Scarcella
SEGREGATION ON TRIAL, AGAIN
During four hours of closing arguments on October 19, Kirkland & Ellis partner Michael Jones and Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, finished the trial in their lawsuit accusing Maryland of maintaining a racially segregated system of higher education. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake gave the plaintiffs lawyers and lawyers for the state each two hours to wrap up arguments in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland Higher Education Commission. The case, the first of its kind to go to trial in 15 years, charges that the segregated system has prevented the state’s four public, historically black colleges from achieving parity with their traditionally white counterparts.
Blake held a six-week bench trial in January. Since then, Jones, working pro bono, and Greenbaum have filed about 600 pages of findings of fact and conclusions. They seek more than $1 billion in funding for the four colleges and high-demand programs at each. “It is now time for a fundamental change in Maryland’s public higher education system and we hope it begins with the decision in this case,” Jones said. — Marcia Coyle
THE NIGERIA JOB
As a poverty-stricken Nigerian state battles severe flooding this year, Greenberg Traurig has answered a call to help in Washington. The firm has notified the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act that it is contacting members of the U.S. executive and legislative branches seeking business development and humanitarian assistance for Bayelsa state, in the Niger Delta. Consulting firm Washington Avenue International is paying Greenberg Traurig $6,700 per month for its Bayelsa work. The contract is slated to expire on March 31. Greenberg Traurig shareholder Edward Barron, handling the account with shareholder David Baron, wrote in the agreement that his firm was “very pleased and excited” to help. Floods since September have displaced 35,126 people, according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. Despite vast oil and natural gas resources in Bayelsa, 47 percent of its people live in poverty and 23.9 percent are unemployed, according to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics. — Andrew Ramonas
The U.S. Supreme Court would look very different if not for Arlen Specter, the former senator and Senate Judiciary Committee member who died on October 14 at 82. In 1987, Specter was one of the few Republicans willing to say no to a Republican president during the confirmation hearings for RobertBork. “I think by standing up and voting no on Bork, he made it less likely for extreme ideologues on one end of the spectrum to be viably considered for the court,” said Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law who has advised senators or the White House during confirmation hearings for five of the nine sitting justices. Specter was remembered as a forceful presence on the Judiciary Committee; earned a reputation for asking tough questions; and became part of a movement in the Senate to toward more independence in evaluating nominees. Specter aggressively questioned attorney Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas‘ confirmation hearings in 1991, when she alleged Thomas had sexually harassed her. The move angered women’s rights groups and almost cost him re-election. — Todd Ruger
OF COURTHOUSES AND URINAL CAKES
Plans for a new federal courthouse in Los Angeles and talking urinal cakes were included on a list of wasteful government spending. In his annual “Wastebook,” Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) counted the $322 million cost of the stalled courthouse project as one of the top 100 projects that voters might find a waste of money. The government is moving forward with the courthouse construction “despite objections from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers and government watchdogs that the project is unneeded,” the report said. Additionally, a Michigan program was literally “flushing down taxpayer dollars,” when the state used $10,000 from the Department of Transportation for 400 talking urinal cakes to fight drunk driving, the report said. A female voice told male urinaters: “Listen up. That’s right! I’m talking to you. Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many? Then do yourself and everyone else a favor. Call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don’t forget. Wash your hands.” — Todd Ruger
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer has explained her October 5 decision not to block ads widely seen as anti-Muslim from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency stations. The American Freedom Defense Initiative sued after Metro put a hold on the group’s contract to post the ad, which Metro argued could pose a threat to public safety. Collyer explained on October 12 that the threats raised — a general warning from federal agencies in light of an online video that sparked anti-American protests abroad and a threatening email sent to Metro — were too vague. She said officials failed to look for less restrictive alternatives to protect public safety, such as posting the ad in areas away from train platforms or doing a daily threat analyses. The ad went up in four stations on October 8 and was expected to run for 30 days. — Zoe Tillman