Tanya S. Chutkan, during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia. February 25, 2014. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)
Boies, Schiller & Flexner partner Tanya Chutkan sailed through her Feb. 25 confirmation hearing, setting her up for a spot on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Chutkan described her judicial philosophy (“open-minded, fair and prepared”) and voiced support for programs to reduce recidivism. “Impartiality is bedrock, listening to both sides, treating all people who come before me, be they individuals or corporations, with respect and with dignity,” she said.
Chutkan, a longtime former public defender with the D.C. Public Defender Service, would join one other African-American woman on the federal trial bench in Washington. President Obama successfully appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, who took the bench in March.
With no apparent opposition, Chutkan appears poised to become half of a judicial duo in Washington. Her husband, Peter Krauthamer, has served on the District of Columbia Superior Court since 2011.
At Boies Schiller, Chutkan focuses on general civil litigation, including the defense of banks in class actions and representing plaintiffs in antitrust class actions. Her practice also includes white-collar defense.
Chutkan has tried between 40 and 45 cases, the “vast majority” as a public defender, according to nomination paperwork she submitted in the Senate.
She runs the pro bono program at Boies Schiller, where she has worked since 2002. Chutkan reported income of $550,000 in 2013 and $222,000 in 2012, and a net worth of $2.7 million, according to the nomination papers. — Todd Ruger
JUSTICES RULE AGAINST BASE PROTESTER
Sometimes oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court foreshadow the decision, particularly if a justice tells an advocate, “You can raise [the First Amendment,] but we don’t have to listen to it.”
Justice Antonin Scalia delivered those blunt words when Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, tried to persuade the court that the First Amendment was an ­integral part of John Dennis Apel’s right to protest in a ­military base’s designated protest zone.
In United States v. Apel, the justices on Feb. 26 unanimously ruled against the antiwar protester who had been barred from Vandenberg Air Force Base for trespassing and vandalism but had continued to enter the protest zone. Instead of the First Amendment, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. rested the decision on the scope of a military commander’s authority under a federal law that makes it a crime to re-enter a “military installation” after being banned.
A disappointed Chemerinsky said the ruling “expands the authority of the military and ­limits the areas available for speech under the statute. But I am very optimistic that we will prevail on remand on the First Amendment” based on reasoning in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurring opinion. Ginsburg wrote that it was “questionable” whether Apel’s ouster was constitutional. Apel, who has been demonstrating outside the base for 17 years, called the decision “dangerous.” He added: “I’ve already experienced what a base can do. It gives power to the military over the general citizenry and it’s very easily abused.” — Marcia Coyle
HIGH COURT OKS SUITS AGAINST LAW FIRMS IN PONZI SCHEME
Private investors burned in Allen Stanford’s $7 billion Ponzi scheme can move ahead with their state-law class actions against two prominent law firms and insurance brokers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Feb 26. The federal Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 does not bar the investors’ claims against Chadbourne & Parke, Proskauer Rose and insurance broker Willis of Colorado for allegedly aiding and abetting Stanford’s fraud, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a 7-2 majority.
The federal law forbids large securities class actions based on state law in which plaintiffs allege “a misrepresentation or omission of a material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security.” In the three consolidated cases before the court — Chadbourne & Parke v. Troice, Willis of Colorado v. Troice and Proskauer Rose v. Troice — the question for the justices was how far that language reached: Did it extend beyond misrepresentations that are material to the purchase or sale of a covered security? “In our view, the scope of this language does not extend further,” Breyer wrote. “A fraudulent misrepresentation or omission is not made ‘in connection with’ such a ‘purchase or sale of a covered security’ unless it is material to a decision by one or more individuals (other than the fraudster) to buy or to sell a ‘covered security.’ “
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, now at Bancroft in Washington, argued for Willis and the law firms. Thomas Goldstein of Goldstein & Russell, also in Washington, represented the defrauded investors. — Marcia Coyle
FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE SUED
For-profit colleges, beware. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week brought its first lawsuit against a for-profit college, charging ITT Educational Services Inc. with predatory lending. Agency head Richard Cordray promised further scrutiny of the multibillion-dollar industry, which he said too often “seems to care more about dollar signs than diplomas.”
Filed in Indianapolis federal court, the suit alleges that ITT, which boasts 149 campuses in 38 states, pushed its students into high-cost private loans that it knew were likely to end in default. The company offered new students short-term, zero-interest loans, but if students couldn’t pay them off at the end of their first year, ITT “coerced them” into “high-interest, high-fee private loans payable over ten years,” the CFPB alleged.
The agency seeks restitution for victims, a civil fine and an injunction against the company. — Jenna Greene
WILEY REIN’S UKRAINE TIES
When former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko left prison on Feb. 22, former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.) of Wiley Rein had reason to celebrate. Slattery had worked to secure the release of Tymoshenko since 2011, when she was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges she abused her political power. Tymoshenko’s conviction came during the presidency of her recently ousted political rival, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev on Feb. 21 amid demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital.
Slattery said he spoke with Tymoshenko shortly after she addressed protesters in Kiev following her release. “She was looking forward to being a voice of reconciliation in Ukraine,” he said. Slattery said he is ready to help Ukraine form a democratic government. “I personally believe that it is very important for Ukraine to find a leader who will help them break their cycle of revenge,” he said. — Andrew Ramonas
VIRGINIA SEITZ LEAVES DOJ
Virginia Seitz, who served as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, has left the U.S. Department of Justice after more than two years at the post. Formerly a partner at Sidley Austin, Seitz was confirmed in June 2011. The former Rhodes scholar clerked for Judge Harry Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Seitz is taking time off after her departure from the department on Dec. 20, Sidley executive committee chairman Carter Phillips said.
“We are very hopeful that she will return” to the firm, Phillips added. Caroline Diane Krass is serving as the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel. — Tony Mauro
TOP PROSECUTOR TO STEP DOWN
Mythili Raman, acting head of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, will step down in March after nearly two decades with the department.
Raman took over leadership of the division in March 2013 after Lanny Breuer, who served for nearly four years as the assistant attorney general, returned to Covington & Burling. Raman has yet to decide future employment plans, according to a department spokesman.
The division is expected to have a new leader soon — Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner Leslie Caldwell is nearing U.S. Senate confirmation as the new assistant attorney general. Raman has served in the Justice Department for 18 years, starting in 1996 as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division.
In a written statement, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. called Raman “a tireless and talented prosecutor, and a fearless advocate for the United States.” — Zoe Tillman