Department of Justice

* The DOJ’s IG, its equivalent of the GAO, will investigate the NSA’s warrantless issuance of acronyms. [Law.com]
* Disecting the Chief Justice’s humor… lawyer style. [WSJ Law Blog]
* No name-calling: Court strikes down President’s power to designate terror groups. [MSNBC]
* Back in the Dogg pound: this time charges include “having a false compartment in a vehicle.” [CNN]

Last week, an investiture ceremony was held for Judge Neil Gorsuch, recently confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. And it was a star-studded affair. From the Denver Post:

Seven-year-old Emma and 5-year-old Belinda helped their father, Neil Gorsuch, into his judge’s robes Monday after the newly appointed 10th Circuit Court judge was sworn in.

Munching on cookies after the formal ceremony, Emma said she thought it “was nice.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was in Denver to administer the oath, spoke directly to the little girls before Gorsuch raised his right hand. “He’s doing it to remind all of us that the first obligation any American has is to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

Justice Kennedy’s pedagogical impulse is admirable. We suspect, however, that Emma and Belinda were thinking more about cookies than the Constitution.
Some supplementary coverage, from an ATL tipster:

The entire en banc 10th Circuit was present. Justice Kennedy administered the oath. Attorney General Gonzales read the commission. Both Colorado Senators made remarks, as did Mark Hansen of Kellogg Huber (the insanely prestigious appellate shop from which Gorsuch rose). Half of the Justice Department was there: Rachel Brand, Elisebeth Collins Cook, Brett Gerry, Wan Kim, Gregory Katsas, among others.

The Gorsuch clerks showed everyone around Denver and got trashed on consecutive nights. Good times were had by all.

Article III groupies, Judge Neil Gorsuch is one to watch. He’s brilliant, he’s young, and he’s incredibly well-connected. Look for him to rise through the ranks of Supreme Court feeder judges in the years to come — and, perhaps, to be nominated to the Court himself someday.
(Judge Gorsuch is taking the seat of Judge David Ebel, who has been the Tenth Circuit’s resident feeder judge for quite some time now. Guess that’s the 10th Circuit’s designated “feeder seat.”)
Update: Would someone be able to locate and/or send us a good photo of Judge Gorsuch for our files? Our quick Googling didn’t produce anything useful.
10th Circuit judge’s oath a family affair [Denver Post]

musical chairs 2 Above the Law legal blog above the law legal tabloid above the law legal gossip site.GIFHere are a few of the most notable moves within the legal profession:
Reunited and It Feels So Good:
* Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld has returned to the New York office of McDermott, Will & Emery. This year, Weld unsuccessfully ran for the chance to get trounced by Eliot Spitzer the Republican nomination for governor of New York.
* Intellectual property lawyer Brian O’Shaughnessy is back at Buchanan Ingersoll — after Womble Carlyle crowed loudly about scooping him up. Nate Carlile of the Legal Times has the story:

O’Shaughnessy started at Womble the day after Halloween, never spent a moment there practicing law, and was gone before the end of the week. (Actually, it appears he cleared out at about the same time Womble was touting his hire.)

How bizarre, how bizarre.
Government to Private Sector:
* Guy Singer — who worked on the Jack Abramoff corruption case, among several other high-profile prosectuions — is heading for the D.C. office of Florida-based Akerman Senterfitt.
New Partners:
* Cravath, Swaine & Moore: Over at the Death Star, four new partners have been announced: corporate lawyer Craig Arcella, litigator Teena-Ann Sankoorikal, corporate lawyer Andrew Thompson, and corporate lawyer Damien Zoubek. The partnership decisions will be effective January 1, 2007.
A tipster tells us that both Craig and Teena are “very good-looking.” (Feel free to send us pictures.)
* Paul Hastings: Sixteen new partners — three more than last year. Evidently they enjoyed working at the firm more than this guy did. Their names appear here.
Firm Names Larger Class of New Partners [NYLawyer.com]
Well-Travelled Politician Rejoins Old Firm in NY [NYLawyer.com]
Abramoff Prosecutor Quits DOJ for Firm [NYLawyer.com]
NY Associates Making Partner [NYLawyer.com]
After Three Days, Flip-Flopping Partner Quits New Firm for Old Firm [Legal Times]
Paul Hastings Elects Sixteen To Partnership [Paul Hastings]

voting booth above the law above_the_law.jpgAn ATL Public Service Announcement: Today is Election Day. Don’t forget to vote!
(That little PSA entitles us to, like, three posts of scurrilous gossip with no redeeming social value.)
The Democrats are expected take control of the House of Representatives in today’s midterm elections. A takeover of the Senate is not out of the question. And after today, everyone’s attention will turn to 2008 — and the next presidential election. (Senatrix Hillary Rodham Clinton, after trouncing John Spencer, will no longer be able to turn away presidential speculation by saying she’s just “focused on the Senate.”)
If current political trends hold, 2008 could represent the Democrats’ best shot at retaking the White House in a long, long time. And with the White House, of course, comes the power to fill numerous high-powered legal posts.
More of our coverage of lawyers in government has focused on conservatives. This is to be expected, since Republicans are in power right now. But to balance out our coverage, and because the Dems are ascendant right now, we’d like to pose this question to you:

Which leading lawyers would assume positions of power in a Democratic administration?

Yes, it’s a rather broad request. Here are examples of specific questions we’d welcome your thoughts on:

1. Who would be a likely Supreme Court nominee (or nominees) if a Democrat were president?

2. Who would be strong candidates for Attorney General in a Democratic administration?

3. Are any lawyers viable contenders for other Cabinet posts (e.g., Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense)?

4. Who would be strong contenders for other top positions: White House Counsel, Solicitor General, head of the Office of Legal Counsel, etc.?

These are just examples. Feel free to speculate about other posts as well, or offer general observations on how the legal landscape might look if the Democrats were in power.
We’re not quite sure what we’ll do with the tips we receive from you. Maybe we’ll report them in a series of posts, or hold some ATL reader polls. It will depend upon what the quantity and quality of your submissions.
Please send us your responses by email (subject line: Democratic Dream Team). Please include as much information and reasoning as possible in support of your “nominations” — the more “inside baseball,” the better.
And feel free to offer alternative scenarios. E.g., “In a Clinton administration, X would be a lock for Attorney General; but in an Obama administration, Y would get the job.” Since this is an exercise in speculation, go ahead and spin out all kinds of crazy hypotheticals.
We can’t wait to read your responses. Thanks!
Polls Open Around the Nation in Midterm Elections [Washington Post]
For Democrats, Even a Gain May Feel Like a Failure [New York Times]

alex acosta r alex acosta r alexander acosta.jpgWell, we’re not sure about that part — nor can we confirm or deny whether the justice was sighted in a “banana hammock.”
But we can report that Justice Alito was recently in MIami, where he swore in Alex Acosta (at right), one of his former clerks, as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. From the Miami Herald:

Samuel A. Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest justice, praised one of his protégés, R. Alexander Acosta, on Wednesday as he swore him in as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

But Alito said that for all his formidable legal talent, Acosta betrayed one ”weakness” when he served as a law clerk in 1994 for the then-federal appellate judge.

”Alex’s knowledge of sports was a little bit lacking,” Alito deadpanned before a standing-room-only gathering of judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers in the historic central courtroom of the Miami federal courthouse.

Alito, a self-professed baseball fan, joked that Acosta probably didn’t know the difference between the Florida Marlins and the Miami Dolphins.

Even if his sports knowledge may be deficient, Acosta is a young superstar of conservative legal circles (as well as “pretty cute,” too). At the tender age of 37, he was nominated by President Bush as Miami’s U.S. Attorney — a position he was already occupying in an acting capacity.
Prior to returning to Miami, where he has deep roots in the city’s Cuban-American community, the brilliant Acosta served as head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. His roughly two-year tenure as Assistant Attorney General was rumored to be somewhat rocky. Acosta’s fairly conservative civil rights agenda apparently did not sit well with some of the more liberal lawyers in the division, who had a different vision of what they’d be doing when they signed up for civil rights work at the Justice Department.
(If you can enlighten us further on these matters, please drop us a line.)
Alito protégé sworn in as U.S. attorney in Miami [Miami Herald via How Appealing]

musical chairs above the law legal blog above the law legal tabloid above the law legal gossip site.GIFA number of big-ticket moves to report today. The most notable involve government lawyers:
Government to Private Sector:
* Debra Wong Yang, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (Los Angeles), has resigned from the USAO. She’s headed to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, as a partner (duh). Ka-ching!
Yang will work out of the firm’s L.A. office. She will co-chair its Crisis-Management Group, along with former Solictor General Theodore Olson and another former federal prosecutor, Randy Mastro.
At Main Justice:
* Jonathan Cohn (OT 2000/Thomas) is now the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Appellate. He was previously the DAAG overseeing the Office of Immigration Litigation (and will continue to discharge that duty until a successor is found).
rachel brand jonathan cohn.JPGAt right: Jonathan Cohn and his wife, Rachel Brand (OT 2002/Kennedy), the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. Although his portfolio has changed (and we’d say for the better), he doesn’t have to get new business cards, since he’s still a DAAG.
Out the Door:
* Casualties of the stock options backdating scandal: Stuart Nichols, former general counsel of KLA-Tencor, and David Lubben, former general counsel of UnitedHealth.
Lateral Moves:
* Corporate lawyer Arthur Hull Hayes III, to Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, from Dewey Ballantine.
* Technology, media, and telecom lawyer Carole Aciman, to Greenberg Traurig, from Hughes Hubbard & Reed.
* King & Spalding: The intellectual property practice acquires five new lawyers: Kenneth Sonnenfeld (NY) and John Harbin, Tony Askew, Steve Schaetzel, and Jim Johnson (in Atlanta). They came from Morgan & Finnegan (Sonnenfeld), Powell Goldstein (Harbin), and Kilpatrick Stockton (Askew, Schaetzel and Johnson).
And Another One Gone, And Another One Gone… [WSJ Law Blog]
L.A. U.S. Attorney Debra Yang Resigns; Will Join Gibson Dunn [WSJ Law Blog]
NY Partners Switching Firms [NYLawyer.com]
More NY Partners Switching Firms [NYLawyer.com]

burka burqa burkha burqha.jpg* An investigation by the Justice Department Inspector General reveals that the Bureau of Prisons doesn’t have enough staff to monitor communications of imprisoned terrorists with the outside world, including mail and phone calls. [Washington Post]
(And what about Instant Messenger? “What ya wearing?” “A burka.” “Love to slip it off you…”)
* The Supreme Court kicks off October Term 2005 — and J. Lo is in the house. José Antonio López’s appeal raises the question of what constitutes a “felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act” (which the Court has grappled with before, and surely will again). [New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Washington Post]
* That wacky Ninth Circuit ruling from earlier this year, holding that arresting the homeless for sleeping on streets and sidewalks constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” may be coming home back to the shelter to roost. It could jeopardize Los Angeles’s attempted crackdown on homeless encampments. [Los Angeles Times]
* Larry Sonsini’s reputation has been tarnished by his involvement in the HP and options backdating scandals. But he’s got all his life to live, he’s got all his love to give; he will survive… [WSJ Law Blog]
* Ex-Comverse Technology CEO Kobi Alexander, wanted back in the United States on options backdating charges, is granted bail by a Namibian court, over U.S. objections. Those starstruck Namibians! Ever since Brangelina, they’re suckers for the rich and (in)famous. [Associated Press]

jessie liu jessie k liu kathryn haun kathryn r haun.JPGLast week we wrote about the A-team of legal talent that Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein is assembling over at the Justice Department’s new National Security Division. Wainstein’s top hires include several members of the Elect, including high-flying legal eagles Brett Gerry (Silberman/Kennedy) and John Demers (O’Scannlain/Scalia).
A press release issued this morning announces Kenneth Wainstein’s other front office hires. And they include two brilliant and beautiful women (whom we have had the pleasure of meeting): Kathryn Haun (left), counsel to the AAG, and Jessie Liu (right), deputy chief of staff.
Those who followed UTR’s Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary contest — which, by the way, we will be reinstituting here at ATL — may recall Haun. She’s the blonde hottie who was photographed wrapping her arms around her former boss, Ninth Circuit judge Alex Kozinski (click here, scroll down). Back then we compared Haun to Naomi Watts; but upon further reflection, we’re thinking Cybill Shepherd.
Don’t let Haun’s dazzling beauty — a beauty that has ensnared multiple male members of the Elect — distract you from her accomplishments. Haun is one of the Elect herself, having clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. She was also an associate at Sidley & Austin, and most recently was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia (a post she is being detailed from to come to the NSD).
Liu, who will be Ken Wainstein’s deputy chief of staff, is similarly high-powered. Her gleaming resume includes Harvard College, Yale Law School, a clerkship with Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King (5th Cir.), and a stint at Jenner & Block. Most recently, Liu was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, where she acquired a wealth of trial experience.
The luminous Liu and her disturbingly brilliant husband, law professor Michael Abramowicz — see NYT wedding announcement here — have two children. Great job, great husband, great kids. Who says you can’t have it all?*
Congratulations to Katie Haun, Jessie Liu, and Ken Wainstein’s entire team at the NSD!
* But please don’t hate Liu for her charmed life; she’s also one of the nicest and most wonderful human beings you’ll ever meet.
Kenneth L. Wainstein Sworn in As First Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division [DOJ press release]
Earlier: Congratulations to Ken Wainstein!

ken wainstein kenneth wainstein kenneth l wainstein.jpgOkay, so he’s no Alice Fisher — the ball-busting, badass blonde, recently confirmed to head the DOJ’s Criminal Division, who has white-collar criminals shaking in their boots. But he’s still a highly regarded attorney — and pretty cute, too.
So ATL sends its congratulations to Kenneth L. Wainstein, just confirmed by the Senate as assistant attorney general for the Department’s brand-new National Security Division (NSD). Previously Wainstein served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
The Wall Street Journal — which criticized the Democrats for holding up Wainstein’s nomination 4-evah — describes Ken Wainstein’s new job as follows:

Mr. Wainstein is waiting to fill a new post recommended in last year’s Robb-Silberman report to further break down the “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement. The new post would bring Justice’s counterespionage, counterintelligence and wiretapping units under one Assistant AG. Mr. Wainstein would also be the law enforcement world’s primary liaison with the intelligence community.

President Bush approved the change, Congress authorized it while renewing the Patriot Act earlier this year, and Mr. Wainstein’s offices are humming with computers. All that’s missing is a leader.

Letting Wainstein go through was a smart move for the Democrats. We’re no political strategists, but we do know this much: With an election just a few weeks away, it’s unwise for the Democrats to hold up the nomination of someone with the words “National Security” in his title.
Wainstein, by the way, is putting together a real A-team of legal talent over at the NSD, including several members of the Elect. As we previously reported, one of them is conservative legal superstar Brett Gerry — the Silbermaniac and former Kennedy clerk, who was associate general counsel to the Robb-Silberman commission. Also onboard: John Demers (O’Scannlain/Scalia), the affable legal genius who previously did a tour of duty with the Office of Legal Counsel (which works on many national security issues).
So congrats again to Ken Wainstein. And best of luck to his band of brainiacs, as they tackle some of the toughest issues facing our nation.
Kenneth Wainstein bio [WhiteHouse.gov]
Gonzales Statement on Confirmation of Ken Wainstein as Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division [DOJ Press Release]
Security Holdup [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]
Earlier: Congratulations to Alice Fisher!
The White House Counsel’s Office: Here Comes the Cavalry

alice fisher alice s fisher.jpgATL extends its warmest congratulations to Alice S. Fisher, who was just confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division — one of the most important and high-ranking posts at the Department of Justice. The vote was 61-35, with 7 Democrats crossing the aisle to support her.*
The Senate sure took its sweet time in confirming Alice Fisher. Back in August 2005, the White Collar Crime Prof Blog asked: When Will the Senate Confirm Alice Fisher to Lead the Criminal Division? It noted that Fisher was nominated as Crim Div AAG back in April — of 2005, mind you — and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2005.
We’re delighted by this news, ’cause we can’t get enough of the brassy, blonde, tough-talking Fisher. In Washingtonian magazine’s July 2006 list of “40 Top Lawyers Under 40,” Fisher came in second (behind Solicitor General Paul Clement). The magazine quoted lawyers who described Fisher — a 1992 graduate of Catholic University Law School, and a protege of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff — as a “tornado” during her time at Latham & Watkins (where she was a partner before joining the Justice Department).**
Fisher is a native of Kentucky — but based on her bad-ass demeanor, you’d guess she emerged from the mean streets of Brooklyn (pre-Yuppification). We can still recall Fisher’s press conference announcing charges against disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Fisher held forth like a sheriff from the Old West, making clear to Capitol Hill criminals that she would hunt them down and bring them to justice.
During her remarks, Fisher mispronounced Abramoff’s name — maybe she said something like “uh-BRAM-off” — over and over again. This led some Beltway insiders to snicker; tout le monde knew Jack Abramoff and the proper pronunciation of his name.
But we were loving it. Why? Rumor has it that this DOJ diva knew full well how to pronounce “Abramoff,” but mangled it on purpose — to send him a message. That message: “Congressmen have been kissing your ass for years. Everywhere you go in this town, people treat you like royalty. But to me, Mr. uh-BRAM-off, you’re just another common criminal — and I’m going to treat you like one. Bite me!”
ALICE FISHER 4 EVER!!
* The seven Democrats who supported Fisher were Evan Bayh, Byron Dorgan, Russell Feingold, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Kenneth Salazar. One Republican, Norm Coleman, did not vote.
** Michael Chertoff has a long and distinguished list of high-powered proteges. See here.
Gonzales Statement on Confirmation of Alice S. Fisher as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division [DOJ press release]
President Pleased by Senate Confirmation of Alice S. Fisher [WhiteHouse.gov]
When Will the Senate Confirm Alice Fisher to Lead the Criminal Division? [White Collar Crime Prof Blog]
Alice S. Fisher [National Law Journal]

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