HISTORIC DAY AT THE HIGH COURT
Carolyn Fuentes, an assistant federal public defender from San Antonio, made history in the annals of U.S. Supreme Court advocacy on April 17.
Fuentes became the first Hispanic woman to argue twice before the high court, according to Maria Mendoza, a D.C. attorney who has compiled statistics about the short list of Hispanics who have appeared before the justices through history.
Fuentes argued in U.S. v. Kebodeaux that a convicted sex offender could not be punished for failing to register as such, when the defendant completed his sentence before the registration law was enacted and had left military service, during which the crime was committed.
Fuentes handled the questions with ease. The only time a justice called Fuentes out was when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. asked her a question, and she responded with a rhetorical question of her own. "I get to ask the questions. You don’t," Roberts said with a smile. Fuentes replied, "You are so correct on that. I apologize."
Also notable is that Fuentes, 60, won her first case, Bond v. U.S., in 2000, and she may win her second. Several justices appeared to agree with her argument. That would mark a good win rate from a court that is often stingy about ruling in favor of criminal defendants. — Tony Mauro
The judiciary wants to spend $1 billion on new courthouses in the next five years? Not so fast, says Congress and the Government Accountability Office. Overbuilding for the courts has been a pet peeve of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The accountability office found the judiciary’s plan "lacks transparency and key information on how projects qualify for new construction." As a result, there is a risk that congressional funding decisions could be made without complete and accurate information, the GAO said in a April 17 report. The full cost of the projects is closer to $3.2 billion, and GAO suggested a moratorium on building courthouses. Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said to keep in mind, "We could administer justice in a warehouse with two milk crates and a piece of plywood." Judge Michael Ponsor, chairman of the U.S. Judicial Conference’s committee on buildings, told the panel that 10 of the 12 courthouses have been on the plan for more than a decade. "It would be brutally unfair to make these communities, after so long, endure further unnecessary delay for additional analysis and review," Ponsor said. — Todd Ruger
NEW LEADER FOR WEIL
Weil, Gotshal & Manges has a new leader in the firm’s Washington office. Steven Tyrrell is taking over as managing partner after it was announced last week that former D.C. managing partner Michael Lyle and litigation partner Eric Lyttle are leaving to join Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Before joining Weil Gotshal in February 2010, Tyrrell was chief of the fraud section at the U.S. Department of Justice. He said in an interview that the firm is hopes to add attorneys in the regulatory practice. "This is an important growth area for the firm and when the right opportunities come up, we will make moves," Tyrrell said.
Quinn Emanuel’s co-head of the Washington office, William Burck, who left Weil Gotshal in January 2012, was instrumental in wooing the new partners. Tyrrell declined to say whether Lyle and Lyttle were taking any clients with them, but he said the firm remains healthy. "You don’t like to lose people like Mike and Eric, both of whom are friends, and I wish them both well," Tyrrell said. "But we as a firm are so much more than just one or two lawyers and their departure will not have a significant impact." — Matthew Huisman
Jesse Jackson Jr., the former Illinois congressman who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, will have a new lawyer at his side when he comes back to court in June for sentencing. On April 12, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree Jr. entered an appearance as Jackson’s attorney. Ogletree will join Steptoe & Johnson LLP’ s Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig at the defense counsel table. Ogletree couldn’t be reached for comment.
Jackson will also face a new judge. On April 16, the case was reassigned from U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins to Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation to the defendant). Wilkins declined to comment about the switch, but there’s speculation that his reassignment was related to Ogletree’s appearance. Wilkins was Ogletree’s student at Harvard Law, and Ogletree told the Chicago Tribune that the two know each other well. — Zoe Tillman
FIRED UP AT GUN LOBBY
Just days after Greenberg Traurig notified Congress it was advocating on behalf of the National Rifle Association, President Barack Obama delivered a rebuke against lobbyists for the gun industry. Obama’s criticism on April 17 came after the U.S. Senate essentially filibustered major gun reform proposals the administration had been pushing. "To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn’t represent your views on this one," Obama said. Greenberg Traurig on April 15 disclosed that senior director Michael Williams had joined the NRA’s cadre of lobbyists. Williams, who joined Greenberg Traurig in 2001 after more than 11 years as an in-house lobbyist at the NRA, declined to elaborate on his most recent lobbying work for the group. — Andrew Ramonas
NO, YOU CAN’T TRAVEL
Former D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown appears to be on U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’ s bad side. Brown, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and was sentenced in November to home detention and supervised release, wanted to visit North Carolina in May for his nephew’s graduation. Prosecutors didn’t oppose the request. For the second time in two months — Brown also asked for permission to travel in March — Leon said no. Leon didn’t give a reason in his April 17 order, but it’s worth noting that Brown earned an angry rebuke from the judge last fall after violating a term of his pre-sentencing release. Brown’s lawyer, Frederick Cooke Jr. of Washington’s Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, couldn’t be reached for comment. — Zoe Tillman