The attorneys and staff were first to go. Then came the conference tables and chairs. Now the artwork that once adorned the walls of Howrey’s Washington and New York offices is gone — auctioned off in a few hours last week.

Most of the 48 lots that went under the hammer sold, earning $63,325 for the estate. The auctioneer, Adam A. Weschler & Son Inc., had earlier estimated the sale price at between $50,000 and $100,000.

Since the artwork was considered ­collateral, the proceeds of the auction go to Citibank, which was the major security backer for Howrey. Allan Diamond, managing partner of Diamond McCarthy and the Howrey estate trustee, said that two additional auctions are likely — one in San Francisco and another in the Chicago area.

The firm had more than 500 pieces of art — paintings, photographs, lithographs, sculptures and antique furniture — valued at $1.2 million. "Obviously, there was quite a spread between the value they were thinking their artwork was worth and what it is worth today," Diamond said. — Matthew Huisman

NO STANDING AROUND FOR SUPREME COURT

The U.S. Supreme Court responded quickly last week to a recent district judge’s ruling that struck down the federal law banning demonstrations on the grounds of the court. With the approval of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., court marshal Pamela Talkin promulgated a regulation that invokes a different law to prohibit "demonstrations" on court grounds.

The wording of both the new regulation and the law under which it was issued appear to be more specific in some ways than the broad prohibition under 40 U.S.C. 6135 that prompted U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on June 11 to strike down that law on First Amendment grounds. "The absolute prohibition on expressive activity in the statute [6135] is unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment," Howell wrote in a 68-page ruling.

 

But at least one lawyer who has represented protesters arrested on court grounds thinks the new regulation is just as overbroad as the law that Howell struck down. "It maybe gets rid of some of the harsher edges," said Mark Goldstone, a Maryland solo practitioner. "But now we will have to find out what a demonstrator is. The court is still prohibiting First Amendment activities on the court plaza. I think Judge Howell will be very disappointed." — Tony Mauro

MACHEN’S TROPHIES

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but photos of former D.C. Council member Michael Brown taking wads of cash from undercover FBI agents netted U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. something arguably more valuable.

Machen is now three-for-three in prosecuting city officials. In January 2012, former council member Harry Thomas Jr. admitted stealing public money. Last June, former council chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to a campaign finance law violation and bank fraud. Machen’s office has also been investigating shenanigans surrounding Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 election, securing two convictions so far. Gray has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Brown served on the council as an at-large member from 2009 until 2012. On June 10, he pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was accused of taking $55,000 during the past year from undercover agents posing as business officials seeking government contracting opportunities. Following last week’s hearing, Brown’s lawyer, Brian Heberlig of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, was reported as saying that Brown made an unwise decision when faced with financial pressures, but that the scandal wouldn’t be his "final chapter." — Zoe Tillman

ONWARD TO CONFIRMATION VOTE

Two acting top U.S. Justice Department officials have moved closer to filling their roles on a permanent basis. The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved acting associate attorney general Tony West’s nomination on a voice vote, meaning he now awaits a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Republicans did not call into question West’s qualifications to serve as third in command at Main Justice, but they had been holding up his nomination as part of a broader political controversy. And acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Division Stuart Delery — who took over for West after he moved higher up in the front office — had an easy time during a confirmation hearing on June 11 to lead the agency’s largest litigating component. Delery, who has been in the acting role for 15 months, only had to answer one question — a softball about his priorities for running the division. — Todd Ruger

FROM SPIES TO SOLDIERS

The Obama administration is turning to the lawyer for America’s spies to lead the Defense Department’s legal division. Central Intelligence Agency general counsel Stephen Preston was nominated last week as the Pentagon’s top lawyer. Since joining the CIA in 2009, Preston has worked on high-profile anti-terror activities — including the U.S. drone program and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. "This is an easy and good nomination," Arnold & Porter partner John Bellinger III said. "This is not a controversial choice." Before joining the CIA, Preston was a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he served as a co-chairman of the firm’s defense and national security practice. Preston would succeed Jeh Johnson, now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. — Andrew Ramonas

YEARS LATER, STILL SECRET

Historian Luke Nichter’s quest to unravel the mysteries of the Watergate Hotel break-in was "laudable," a Washington federal trial judge said. But a recent ruling means Nichter will remain in the dark about some of the scandal’s remaining — and vexing — secrets. On June 11, U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth denied Nichter’s request to unseal an illegal wiretap of the Democratic National Committee plus transcripts and other information from grand jury proceedings. Lamberth agreed to release pre-sentencing reports for four men convicted in the break-in, though, writing that they would "help correct misinformation and dispel myths and baseless conspiracy theories surrounding this sad episode of American history." — Zoe Tillman

ACTING ON LOBBYING DISCLOSURES

Political law lawyers in Washington last week were buzzing about the first-ever suit filed against a firm for allegedly violating the 18-year-old Lobbying Disclosure Act. Blog posts popped up on lawyers’ websites after prosecutors on June 7 filed a complaint alleging that Biassi Business Services Inc. failed to turn in 124 federal lobbying reports on time. The West Hempstead, N.Y.-based consulting firm, which has only one client, faces fines of up to $33 million. Covington & Burling partner Robert Kelner, who specializes in LDA compliance, wondered whether the suit was a "token" action. "It’s difficult to take the enforcement of LDA seriously," he said. Bill Miller, spokesman for the Washington U.S. attorney’s office, said enforcers are vigilant about lobbyist scofflaws. "This complaint demonstrates that repeat offenders who fail to take their reporting obligations seriously will be held accountable by the U.S. attorney’s office," Milller said. Since Ronald Machen Jr. became U.S. attorney in 2010, his office has settled three LDA enforcement actions. In September, prosecutors agreed to a combined $80,000 settlement with Lussier, Gregor, Vienna & Associates and the Da Vinci Group. — Andrew Ramonas