MYSTERIES OF THE MAGIC 8 BALL
You might think that, with nine children and 28 grandchildren, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would have bought, received or played with a Magic 8 Ball by now. (That’s the fortune-telling toy which, when shaken, gives random answers such as "without a doubt" to life’s yes-or-no questions.)
But Scalia was mystified March 25 when Justice Stephen Breyer repeatedly mentioned the Magic 8 Ball during oral argument in Oxford Health Plans v. Sutter. Breyer was testing how much deference an arbitrator should be given in interpreting an arbitration clause. What if the arbitrator "gets his Magic 8 Ball out and, whatever it is, he says, ‘That’s what it means?’ " Breyer asked. Scalia exclaimed, "What’s a Magic 8 Ball? I don’t know what you are talking about."
As laughter erupted, Breyer said, "A Magic 8 Ball is, you have — that’s a little thing, it’s the — it’s a nonsportsman’s equivalent of throwing darts." — Tony Mauro
AFTER DOJ, FAMILIAR GROUND FOR BREUER
Lanny Breuer, one of the longest-serving leaders of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, returned last week to Covington & Burling to serve largely as the go-between for the firm, its clients and government officials. Breuer rejoined his old firm about a month after he left DOJ.
After nearly four years as the assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division, Breuer takes on the newly created role of vice-chairman. "We have thought for some time as we have grown that it would help us significantly to have another person who could work very closely with me as an external face of the firm," said Timothy Hester, chairman of the firm’s management and executive committees.
Breuer will also resume his former practice in white-collar criminal defense and civil litigation, representing both companies and individuals. How much work he can do in that arena will depend on the scope of any conflicts flowing from his time at Main Justice. "If it’s a new matter," Breuer said, "I can be overtly involved." At Justice, Breuer oversaw the prosecution of major banks, including HSBC Holdings PLC and Barclays Bank PLC. Also, Breuer was the co-author of a guide book on the enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Bernie Grimm, who recently left Cozen O’Connor’s white-collar practice to start a solo shop in Washington, said Breuer and former Covington partner and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. attracted significant business for the firm. "That is what I think drew people to Covington," Grimm said. "Lanny has got a ton of name recognition." — Matthew Huisman
NEW BOUTIQUE BLOSSOMS IN D.C.
Three Washington attorneys have teamed up to form Goldblatt Martin Pozen, a boutique shop focused on D.C. issues related to businesses, government agencies and public and private entities. Attorneys David Goldblatt, Thomas Martin and Thorn Pozen are the founding partners. Goldblatt brings experience in legislative advocacy and real estate development. Martin practices in administrative law, specifically unemployment insurance. Pozen focuses on government ethics, regulatory matters, campaign finance and government relations. "The three practice areas work together for the benefit of our clients, particularly business clients," Martin said. Goldblatt said the firm could add an associate within the first year. At present, the firm has three partners, an associate and paralegal. "I feel like we are really able to take advantage of a niche in the marketplace and separate ourselves from big law firms," Pozen said. "There aren’t many firms which can provide the kind of cross-services with the relationships of the government as well as top flight legal work with a strong big-firm experience level." — Matthew Huisman
A SUPREME PEEP
U.S. Supeep Court Justice Clarence Thomas. No, that’s not a typo. A marshmallow candy rendering of the famously reticent justice and his colleagues has earned special recognition in The Washington Post‘s annual Peeps Diorama Contest. The subject, Thomas’ first utterance — or, peep — from the bench in nearly seven years in January, seemed an apt subject, co-creator and King & Spalding associate Jessica Ringel said. "It sounded perfect for D.C.," said Ringel, who gave her co-creator Ellie Smith credit for coming up with the idea. Ringel’s practice doesn’t include arguing before the high court — she’s a member of the firm’s Food and Drug Administration and life sciences practice — but they included touches that members of the Supreme Court bar might appreciate. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s collar is a small piece of lace. The male justices’ ties are color-coded blue for left-leaning, red for right-leaning, and purple for swing vote. They even checked the transcript to estimate the time on the clock when Thomas spoke. Ringel and Smith’s entry didn’t win the contest, but readers could still vote for their favorites. "We’re lagging right now," Ringel said, but "we’re still happy with all the votes we’re getting." — Zoe Tillman
SOUNDTRACK OF THE SUPREMES
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested a new Supreme Court music compilation last week when she couldn’t come up with the right word after two days of arguments over same-sex marriage. During a press conference on Capitol Hill, a reporter asked Pelosi whether she was surprised that Republican leadership was being so quiet about the Defense of Marriage Act. "Let me just say this about that question, because when you get the soundtrack, is that what we’re calling it? What are we calling it?" Pelosi said, turning to an aide. "The audio," the aide prompted. But the press corps had already started laughing. "Soundtrack of the Supreme Court! The soundtrack of the Supremes," Pelosi said. With only a few chuckles on the joke, Pelosi said, "Oh, you’re too young." For the DOMA case, in which the ruling is expected to take months, The Supremes hits "You Can’t Hurry Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin’ On" might work. — Todd Ruger
SENIOR STATUS, BUT NO KICKING BACK
When Judge Royce Lamberth of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia steps down as chief and takes senior status in July, don’t expect to find him kicking back and taking it easy. Lamberth said in an interview last week he not only plans to keep a "hearty caseload" in Washington, but he also wants to serve as a visiting judge in other federal courts. "I am looking forward to being able to go other places where the courts need help," he said, adding that he’s "hoping to travel to places in desperate need, like the border courts." After he steps down, Lamberth said, he’s taking a cruise to Norway. "My wife is looking forward to more travel," he said. "We both are." Lamberth is required to step down as chief judge when he turns 70 in July. He has long said he planned to take senior status. — Zoe Tillman
SEALED, FOR NOW
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a sealed ruling in a high-profile spat over a search warrant between Washington businessman Jeffrey Thompson — represented by Williams & Connolly senior partner Brendan Sullivan Jr. — and the U.S. Justice Department. Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and of counsel to Baker & Hostetler, urged the court to consider issuing a redacted opinion. On March 28, the appeals court broke its silence. The panel directed the lawyers to tell the court what information should be blacked out in the event the court decides to issue a public ruling. — Mike Scarcella