The departure of more than a dozen Patton Boggs partners last week created opportunities for firms looking to round out practices and establish new offices.
Thompson Hine added business litigation partner Ugo Colella to the Washington ranks. Colella's addition fits well with the firm's litigation emphasis, Washington partner-in-charge David Wilson said. "A lot of the regulatory practices have an element of administrative litigation to them," he said. Colella "has a significant caseload of his own that he brings with him, which is a nice complement to what we do," Wilson added.
Former Patton partner David Farber moved to King & Spalding to practice in the Food and Drug Administration, life sciences and health care group. His practice includes government advocacy and regulatory counseling.
The biggest beneficiary of the Patton partner defection? That was Holland & Knight, which picked up 23 attorneys, including 12 former partners, to start an office in Dallas. Holland & Knight managing partner Steven Sonberg said the new hires fit the firm's growth plan and built on existing practice strengths. "We're able to marry two strategies: one geographic and one practice-focused," Sonberg said. — Matthew Huisman
AT THE SUPREME COURT, MANY, MANY QUESTIONS
Fresh off the bench after a contentious U.S. Supreme Court term, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. offered a mostly lighthearted ­status report on the court before the biennial conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on June 29 at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.
The court has 45 cases already lined up for review during the term beginning on October 7, more than usual. Roberts said he'll try to schedule more oral arguments for the early part of the term to avoid the usual "mad dash" to finish the court's work in May and June. "What a fantasy that is," he said sarcastically.
The court's renovation project is taking longer than expected. Grounds on the Maryland Avenue side have been dug up for years. "You'd think we were looking for Jimmy Hoffa," Roberts joked. And justices are still interrupting each other and not letting advocates answer questions during oral argument. "We do overdo it," he said. "We do need to address it a little bit." — Tony Mauro
President Barack Obama's administration has been one of the worst in recent history when it comes to filling the nation's federal trial courts, a new study concludes. Because judicial vacancies have remained "uniquely high" throughout Obama's term, federal district judges are more burdened by caseloads than ever before, according to the findings by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. "The ongoing vacancy crisis in the district courts is unprecedented, and judges and litigants are paying the price as dockets grow," the study's author, Alicia Bannon, counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, wrote. Judicial workloads were higher in 2012 than at any point between 1992 and 2007, considering both full-time active judges and part-time senior judges. The Brennan Center did not assign blame to the White House or the Senate for the vacancy crisis. "Indeed, our findings suggest that to fully address the increasing district court workload, more judgeships are required — further highlighting the importance of filling vacant seats now," Bannon said. — Todd Ruger
The U.S. Department of Justice wants to keep on hold a public-records lawsuit in Washington federal court over a civil liberties group's effort to get its hands on a secret ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A department lawyer, Jacqueline Coleman Snead, senior counsel in the Civil Division's federal programs branch, said the suit should remain on hold at least until September. The extra time, she said, would allow Justice to "coordinate a multi-agency review process" to determine the scope of the disclosure of information about government surveillance programs without jeopardizing national security. Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyers Mark Rumold and David Sobel contend that no further delay is justified. In the face of widespread public criticism, the government has been able to marshal rapid and public responses — often taking steps to immediately declassify information," the EFF lawyers said in a July 1 court filing. The department "provides no reason that the government may not proceed with similar promptness here." The challengers are fighting to obtain a copy of a court ruling that found, at least in one instance, that surveillance measures violated the Fourth Amendment. The substance of the ruling remains classified. — Mike Scarcella
NO HARD FEELINGS
Representative Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has put his former colleagues at lobbying shops on notice — again. Israel on June 28 introduced the Revolving Door Pension Prevention Act to forbid former members from drawing federal pensions if they make more than $1 million per year as a lobbyist. The congressman last year offered a similar bill, the Congressional Double Dipping Pension Prevention Act, which died in committee. "During these tough economic times in which governments everywhere are stretching budgets and trying to do more with less, the last people who should be receiving federal pensions are former Members of Congress who are now millionaire lobbyists," Israel said. "My legislation will make sure that taxpayer funds are spent effectively on job-creating priorities and not supporting millionaires." The legislation is the second bill introduced in this Congress to address former members who receive federal retirement benefits as lobbyists. — Andrew Ramonas
CAN YOU HEAR ME?
The number of wiretaps approved by the ­federal courts dramatically increased last year, but that doesn't mean law enforcement officials got all the communication the government targeted. For the first time, encryption prevented ­investigators from obtaining the plain text of the communications, according to a new report form the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. In all, agents were unable to decipher the messages in four ­wiretaps. Encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012, more than twice as many as the previous decade combined. The 1,354 wiretap applications approved by federal judges in 2012 represented a 71 percent increase from 2011, the A.O. said in its annual Wiretap Report, which doesn't include data on intercepts approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Only two state wiretap ­applications were denied in 2012. In this new era of federal surveillance, there usually isn't even a wire to tap. In 2012, 97 percent of all authorized wiretaps at the state and federal level were targeted portable devices. — Todd Ruger
U.S. Supreme Court police lawfully arrested a man wearing an "Occupy Everywhere" jacket inside the high court, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson concluded on July 2 in dismissing the visitor's lawsuit. The authorities, Jackson determined, had probable cause to arrest Fitzgerald Scott for violating the federal law, then in effect, that banned certain displays or demonstrations at the Supreme Court. Scott was arrested October 17, 2012, on the same day a large "Occupy" protest took place outside the court. Charges were ultimately dropped, but Scott filed suit for false arrest and imprisonment. Jackson noted that U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on June 13 struck down Section 6135 as unconstitutional. But she said that at the time of Scott's arrest, the law had been upheld numerous times. Besides, Jackson said, Scott's case was a challenge to the arrest, not a challenge of the constitutionality of the federal law. Scott's lawyer, Jeffrey Light, a Washington solo practitioner, said he would take the dispute to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. — Tony Mauro
DELAY OF SENTENCING
Jesse Jackson Jr. will have to wait a bit longer to find out whether he's going to spend time in federal prison for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson last week pushed back Jackson's scheduled July 3 sentencing to August 14. The judge noted in her order that neither side asked for a continuance. Prosecutors, including ­assistant U.S. attorneys Matt Graves and Michael Atkinson, are seeking a 48-month prison term for Jackson. Jackson's defense team includes Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig of Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree Jr. The defense attorneys are fighting for a below-guidelines sentence. — Zoe Tillman