Exasperation, disappointment and anger were some of the responses The National Law Journal received from prominent practitioners when asked about their reactions to the federal government shutdown on October 1. Others described it as a necessary evil, and some thought the consequences of it would not live up to the media hype. Here’s what these lawyers had to say. —Leigh Jones
“My reaction was that it was a ploy by the Obama administration to get 100 percent of what they want out of Congress—that the Republicans are responding to overwhelming view of the American people that Obamacare needs substantial reform.” — James Bopp Jr., The Bopp Law Firm, Terre Haute, Ind.
“Now is the perfect chance for everybody in Washington to spend some time reading The Federalist Papers. They need to remember how the government is supposed to work.”— Theodore Boutrous Jr., partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles
“It’s not just Congress—it takes two or three to tango in this town. It’s a larger political community problem, and there needs to be improved leadership from all quarters. I think businesses are hoping to see improved leadership.”
—Dan Bryant, partner, Covington & Burling, Washington
“It appears to me that there is a small and dedicated extremist group of legislators who are seeking to highjack the government of the United States, and that makes me angry.”
—Gregory Craig, partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
“I’m really appalled by the entire scene. It’s totally dysfunctional and I’m stressed about it. There needs to be the grand bargain that everyone talked about.”
—Donald Dunner, partner, Finnegan Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, Washington
“[It’s] déjà vu from 1996, when I was deputy attorney general. The hardest thing was asking people—for example, those who protect federal judges or those who guard our prisons—to work without a paycheck. The decisions one needs to make about who is essential present extremely difficult choices. This is a foolish way to run a government.”
—Jamie Gorelick, partner, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, Washington
“I view the federal shutdown as a tragic failure of our government to perform one of its basic tasks successfully—passing a budget. If those in the government were held to the same standards we hold individuals who fail to manage their personal finances, we would put the government into an involuntary bankruptcy and appoint a responsible trustee.”
—Nathan Hochman, partner, Bingham McCutchen, Santa Monica, Calif.
“My first thought when I heard that 800,000 workers would receive no pay was, ‘Tomorrow is October 1. Will landlords, mortgage holders, phone companies and student loan lenders give a grace period for government workers on their October payments?’ I don’t recall ever seeing a ‘government shutdown’ clause in a rental agreement or lending contract. In other words, forget politics, this is about the economic stability of real people and their families.
—Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., Washington
“Although the shutdown will certainly cause a lot of pain for some people, it has the potential to trigger a very healthy debate among the public on one of the most pressing issues of our day—the size of government and fiscal responsibility.
—Jay Lefkowitz, partner, Kirkland & Ellis, New York
“Obviously, the shutdown is more major in its scope and impact than the sequester, but it is also more major in our area. How will the folks in Kansas react to it? Will it change how they vote?”
—Victor Schwartz, partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Washington
“I’m in intense discussion with DOJ lawyers in several different matters, so my first thought was, ‘Is a pause in the negotiations good or bad for my client?’ “
—Jerry Stouck, partner, Greenberg Traurig, Washington
“When you combine it with the sequester, when you combine it with court cuts, our justice system is slowing slipping to a third-world justice system, and it’s affecting just regular people who are caught in the immigration system, in the federal courts, without a means of accessing their rights.”
—Hernan Vera, president and CEO of Public Counsel, Los Angeles
“My reaction was one of frustration. Most of my clients are furloughed. Administrative hearings, particularly security clearances, have been postponed. Court cases have been stayed. I receive few emails or phone messages. My practice is, in some ways, furloughed as well.”
—Mark Zaid, Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, Washington