It took two years and some political hardball, but the Senate finally confirmed former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The morning after the 66-34 confirmation vote last week, President Barack Obama remarked at the White House on the twists and turns of the nomination. With Cordray ­standing to his left, Obama told a small crowd inside the State Dining Room that Republicans had refused to give Cordray a vote "because they didn't like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place." Obama used a recess appointment to make Cordray the CFPB's director in January 2012, a move that cast a cloud of legal uncertainty over the agency. Federal appeals courts ruled that two of Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board — done at the same time and in the same ­manner as Cordray's — were unconstitutional. "Without a director in place, the CFPB would have been severely hampered," Obama said. With Republicans still blocking Cordray and other White House nominations this year, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threatened to use the so-called "nuclear option" to change long-standing Senate rules to strip the ability of Republicans to filibuster executive nominations. In the deal that averted the change, Cordray became first in a number of nominees to get a vote. "And thanks to not only Rich, but his terrific team — I know many are represented here — we've made real strides, even despite the fact that the agency was hampered by the confirmation process," Obama said. — Todd Ruger
MIT PRESSES TO INTERVENE IN AARON SWARTZ CASE IN D.C.
Lawyers for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Patrick Carome and senior associate Laura Hussain, last week injected the university's voice into a public records spat in Washington federal district court.
MIT's attorneys filed papers to intervene in a Freedom of Information Act suit that seeks government documents about the late Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide in January while federal computer-crime charges were pending against him in Boston. MIT wants U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to give the school a chance to review any records before they're released to the public.
Swartz was charged in 2011 with using MIT's network to download millions of academic articles from the university's JSTOR database. The public records suit, filed by a reporter for the magazine Wired, represented by David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, demanded information from the U.S. Secret Service, which assisted in the investigation of Swartz. "Since Mr. Swartz's death, the MIT community has been the subject of harassment and threats in retaliation for its involvement in events relating to Mr. Swartz's prosecution," Carome wrote in MIT's court papers.
MIT asked Kollar-Kotelly to hold an expedited hearing to review the university's proposal to have a say in the scope of the disclosure of any records. — Mike Scarcella
BIG BOOTS TO FILL
"Don't let the bastards grind you down." That's the loose translation of a Latin phrase inscribed on a plaque the new chief of Washington's federal trial court, Judge Richard Roberts, received on his first day on the job. On July 16, now-Senior Judge Royce Lamberth formally passed the gavel to Roberts, his successor. Lamberth was required to step down as chief judge when he turned 70 and the job went to Roberts, the most senior judge under age 65, also per the rules. Roberts, 60, was appointed to the federal bench in 1998. Before joining the court, he was a longtime prosecutor, serving in the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and U.S. attorney's offices in Washington and New York. He also spent several years at Covington & Burling. Roberts said Lamberth had "left some Texas-sized shoes for me to fill" — a nod to Lamberth's home state — but that he was ready to get to work. — Zoe Tillman
The judges who sit on the court that reviews government surveillance applications would draw a bit more public scrutiny before they serve if Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has his way. Schiff, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation July 17 that would require Senate confirmation for the 11 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. now appoints the judges to seven-year terms. "As a result of the current selection process, ten of the 11 judges currently serving on the FISC were appointed to the federal bench by presidents from one political party," Schiff said. "In light of the significance of the FISA Court opinions, their classified nature and their virtual unreviewability, the American people — through the Senate — should have the opportunity to probe nominees on their Fourth Amendment views and other key matters." — Todd Ruger
The recusals of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. left many lawyers scratching their heads last year. Alito's latest financial disclosure form, released on July 17, provides some insight into his motivations. The 23-page report details numerous of Alito's financial holdings in companies that include Chevron Corp., AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Abbott Laboratories. Alito did not participate in the review of Chevron v. Naranjo and he took no part in the high court's decision this year in Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, the pay-for-delay case that involved deals between generic and brand-name drug makers. — Mike Scarcella
NOW PLAYING: A TRIAL
Lawyers are used to arguing in courtrooms across the country, each one perhaps a little different than the other. How about a trial in an old movie theater?
Patton Boggs partners Andrew Friedman and Benjamin Chew, co-chairman of the firm's commercial litigation and antitrust group, won an acquittal for two brothers in a white-collar prosecution in Kosovo. A new court facility is under construction, so the trial was held in a law school room and then, later, in an ABC Cinema in Priština, capital of the Balkan nation.
Friedman said three judges presided over the case from tables set in front of the screen. Translators and court clerks flanked the jurists. The lawyers all sat in what would have been the first rows of movie seating. — Matthew Huisman