It’s not often that appellate lawyers at corporate law firms get to save someone’s life. Yet that was the case for Hogan Lovells partners Christopher Handman, Desmond Hogan and Catherine Stetson. Along with a pro bono team that worked around the clock in September and October, the trio won a stay of execution for Florida’s John Errol Ferguson with minutes to spare. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he was convicted of killing eight people during the 1970s and had styled himself the "Prince of God."
"It was an execution scheduled for 6 p.m.," Stetson, co-director of the appellate practice, said. "We got the stay at 5:54 and I put in a call to the warden at 5:55."
Hogan lawyers also won their share of business-related appellate matters. Stetson helped three utilities including Yankee Atomic Electric Co. collect $160 million in a long-running dispute with the federal government over nuclear waste disposal. The government had charged the utilities fees since 1998 to pick up nuclear waste and dispose of it at a dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Yet that project got caught up in environmental and political disputes and was never completed. After a trial court awarded the utilities $143 million, Stetson persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to boost the damages by $17 million.
Hogan scored a major victory on behalf of Daimler Trucks North America LLC and Detroit Diesel Corp. Competitor Navistar International Corp. was selling truck engines that didn’t meet U.S. emissions standards under an interim rule granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Handman and partner R. Latane Montague persuaded the D.C. Circuit to vacate the EPA rule — and by getting the court to hear an expedited appeal, brought their clients a victory in less than four months.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hogan partner Neal Katyal helped US Airways Inc. win a major health insurance case involving employees’ obligations to repay employers’ health plans for medical expenses later recovered from third parties. Airline employee James McCutchen argued that would "unjustly enrich" the airline, but the court sided with US Airways and provided guidelines for future insurance-reimbursement disputes.
"We’ve built a practice around being really good listeners and making sure everyone has given us their perspective," said Katyal, a former acting solicitor general at the U.S. Justice Department. "At the end of the day if we lose, we don’t want people to have a lot of hurt feelings."