Perhaps U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer ought to confine his love of cycling to bikes of the indoor and stationary kind.
Breyer underwent "reverse shoulder replacement surgery" on April 27 at MedStar George­town University Hospital after falling from his bike the day before, near the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. An exposed tree root may have been the culprit. The 74-year-old justice was released from the hospital on April 29, but not before missing that morning’s court session. He may be wearing a sling under the black robe for the next several court sessions.
It’s nothing new for the justice, whose career has been bookended by bike accidents. Just before President Clinton interviewed him for the Supreme Court seat in 1993, Breyer was hit by a car while on a bike, suffering broken ribs and a punctured lung. The interview went badly, possibly because of his impaired state, and Breyer waited until the next vacancy in 1994. In 2011, another bike accident broke his collarbone.
Note to Breyer: Tricycles for adults are trendy these days. — Tony Mauro
AT THE FCC, A BREAK IN TRADITION
In the Federal Communications Commission’s 79-year history, nearly every chairman has had one thing in common: a law degree. But not Tom Wheeler, who was nominated last week by President Barack Obama to lead the agency.
A venture capitalist and former head of the National Cable Television Association, then the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, Wheeler by all accounts brings formidable expertise to the job. As Obama put it at the White House: "Tom knows this stuff inside and out."
But he’s not a lawyer, an anomaly for the FCC, where the last U.S. Senate-confirmed chair who wasn’t an attorney was Robert E. Lee, who led the agency for three months in 1981. And the last nonlawyer to serve a full term as chairman was Wayne Coy, a Democrat from Indiana who headed the commission from late 1947 until 1952.
Still, telecom lawyers predict Wheeler will do just fine without a J.D. "The FCC chairman must be a policy expert, and lawyers are often good at public policy," said Samuel Feder, who chairs the communications practice at Jenner & Block and previously served as FCC general counsel. "But you can be great at policy without being a lawyer, and Tom has already proved his policy expertise." — Jenna Greene
DOJ FIGHTS FEES IN FOIA SUIT
An advocacy group that fought the U.S. Justice Department over access to documents about the government’s use of social-networking sites such as Twitter for investigative purposes and data gathering is asking for $30,590 in legal fees. Last week, DOJ lawyers, including Jean-Michel Voltaire of the Civil Division, called the fee request "unreasonably excessive and wholly unsupported." The plaintiff, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Voltaire said, is entitled "at most to the relatively few hours expended on drafting and filing the complaint." DOJ lawyers contend EPIC "over-staffed this garden-variety" Freedom of Information Act suit with seven attorneys. Ginger McCall and Marc Rotenberg of EPIC sued the Department of Homeland Security in December 2011 in an attempt to "allow the public to assess the privacy risks to social media users." McCall said in April that the lawsuit forced the disclosure of hundreds of pages of government records that "would have otherwise remained secret." EPIC, she said, "invested substantial time researching and preparing filing documents related to the fee issue and is entitled to be compensated for that time under the FOIA." — Mike Scarcella
OPEN OR CLOSED?
Lawyers for E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., to close a courtroom to the public to allow a panel to hear a trade secrets dispute. Adam Charnes, a Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton partner in Washington who represents DuPont, said the courtroom closure and sealed transcripts are necessary to preserve the confidentiality of trade secrets regarding the manufacture of Kevlar-brand high-strength fiber. Lawyers from McGuire Woods and Crowell & Moring also represent DuPont. Bancroft partner Paul Clement, a lawyer for rival company Kolon Industries Inc., which was sued by DuPont, said in response on May 2 that complete closure of the hearing is inappropriate. Clement, who represents Kolon with a team from Paul Hastings, noted that the appeals court only partially closed a hearing regarding the detention of Zacarias Moussaoui. "If such a procedure is feasible in a case involving some of the government’s most sensitive information about national security, it can surely be used in this case as well," Clement said in court papers. — Mike Scarcella
A NOD TO THE SUPREME COURT
The U.S. Supreme Court’s arguments in March over same-sex marriage became a driving force behind a historic sports announcement several weeks later. On April 29, National Basketball Association player Jason Collins became the first active male athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay. "The strain of hiding my sexuality became almost unbearable in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Less than three miles from my apartment, nine jurists argued about my happiness and my future," Collins, who plays for the Washington Wizards, told Sports Illustrated. "Here was my chance to be heard, and I couldn’t say a thing." Collins’ announcement prompted a telephone call from President Barack Obama. "And I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him," Obama told reporters at a White House press conference last week. — Todd Ruger
TELL HOLDER WHAT’S GOING ON
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on April 29 appointed six new U.S. attorneys to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Loretta Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, N.Y. The committee’s newest members: David Barlow, U.S. attorney for Utah; Richard Hartunian of the Northern District of New York; Barbara McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan; Wendy Olson of the District of Idaho; Ronald Sharpe of the Virgin Islands; and Anne Tompkins, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The advisory committee gives Holder the opportunity to hear from U.S. attorneys about policy and management. Holder said he regularly consults the committee "on some of the most critical law enforcement and public safety issues facing our country." U.S. attorneys serve two-year terms on the committee. — Mike Scarcella
The chief judges of the District of Columbia’s local courts don’t have personal Twitter accounts — at least, not that they’ve publicly revealed — but they made a brief appearance on the courts’ main account last week as part of annual Law Day festivities. Responding to questions submitted via the hashtag #AskTheCJs, D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield and D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric Washington crafted 140-character missives on everything from jury service to professional development. They demurred on only one question: a user asked about the hardest decision the judges had ever made. Their reply? "Every dispute that comes before a judge is given serious consideration, so it’s hard to pick just one." — Zoe Tillman