FOR EIGHTH TIME AS AG, HOLDER TO TESTIFY
For the eighth time since he became attorney general, Eric Holder Jr. will take center stage at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Holder is scheduled to testify during a March 6 oversight hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee chairman, announced last week.
Holder’s appearance will mark his first in the new Congress, giving new members of the committee like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) the chance to press the attorney general on hot issues. Topics likely to come up include the administration’s gun control effort and the secrecy over the Justice Department memos addressing the lawfulness of the government’s targeted killing program.
Last week, Holder touted the push for a universal background check for firearm purchases and the move to ban military-style rifles. He said none of the administration’s proposals "will infringe upon the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and gun owners."
One thing on the mind of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking committee member: travel expenses. Grassley said he hopes Holder says "the era of taxpayer funded trips for personal use on the Gulfstream jets is over." — Mike Scarcella
SECRET SERVICE CLASS CERTIFIED
Capping more than a decade of litigation, a federal trial judge in Washington last week certified a class of current and former African-American U.S. Secret Service agents who claim the agency denied promotions based on race. U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts concluded that the plaintiffs’ lawyers, including Hogan Lovells partner E. Desmond Hogan and a team from Relman, Dane & Colfax, provided enough common evidence to support class status. Hogan, working pro bono, said "a jury will hear all the evidence of the pattern and practice of race discrimination that harmed the careers of scores of African-American Secret Service Agents." The class comprises 120 agents who unsuccessfully bid for certain government positions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The government’s legal team, including assistant U.S. attorney Marina Braswell, had urged Roberts to reject class certification. Braswell said in court papers that there’s nothing common among the plaintiffs, as they are "complaining about thousands of separate promotion-related determinations made by hundreds of different participants, from 44 states, 18 foreign countries." The government could decide to challenge class certification. — Mike Scarcella
Having spent nearly two-thirds of his life as a lawyer and a judge, U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer, who died February 21 at 94, was truly "a man who lived greatly in the law," in the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Oberdorfer also worked in private practice, served in the Justice Department under Robert F. Kennedy, and helped establish the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Legal Services Corp. "He was inspirational, not because of what he said, but because of what he did," Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said. Former clerks, colleagues and friends remembered him as a great storyteller and generous mentor, and a pioneer in advocating for access to justice, from the elimination of sentencing disparities in drug cases to prisoners’ rights. "He viewed his role, I think, as trying to do justice wherever possible," said U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman. — Zoe Tillman
‘THE NICEST MAN’
Friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of Williams & Connolly partner Gerald Feffer, who died on February 13 at age 70 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. A renowned litigator, Feffer defended hotelier Leona Helmsley in 1989, winning an acquittal on the most serious charges against her. At the end of the trial, the jury foreman reportedly said, "Mrs. Helmsley had the best lawyer on the planet. He was a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Steve Martin." Feffer, who served as assistant deputy attorney general of the Justice Department’s Tax Division from 1979 to 1981, was one of the nation’s most sought-after criminal tax defense attorneys. "There couldn’t have been anyone I could have learned more from or had more pleasure practicing with," said Williams & Connolly partner James Bruton III. "He was a wonderful, wonderful person." Added firm partner Brendan Sullivan, "Jerry was, simply put, the nicest man we knew." — Jenna Greene
A NEW HERO
Advocates against Washington influence peddling will have a new hero next month: the head of the U.S. Capitol Police. Dressed as $100 bills, activists sponsored by Represent.Us on April 13 will run the first "K Street 5K" from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, where they expect police to arrest them. "We plan to award U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine with a medal of honor for having the courage to do what our political leaders fail to do: stop big money from entering Congress," Represent.Us director Josh Silver said last week in a written statement. "Heck, we hope we can convince Ms. Dine to run for Congress. On April 13th she’ll do more in one day than most politicians have done in their entire career to stop the big money madness that defines US politics." Represent.Us is an arm of United Republic, a nonprofit organization that focuses on money in politics. — Andrew Ramonas
WALK IN PARK
It’s hard to imagine a smoother judicial confirmation hearing than that of Jane Kelly, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from Iowa. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) usually delivers the toughest questions for nominees as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member and typically the lone Republican attending the hearings. But during a February 27 hearing, he noted that his staff had already told Kelly what the questions would be, "so there should be no surprises here." One of the questions boiled down to this: Should judges give up on the Constitution? Kelly, of course, said no. "I was holding my breath to see how you’d answer that," Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) said. "You did well." As the hearing drew to a close, Kelly said: "I’m sort of enjoying it." Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) responded: "You may be the first person to say that." — Todd Ruger