George Ryan

Rod Blagojevich illinois law above the law.JPGSome have wondered: Where was star litigator Dan Webb at Governor Rod Blagojevich’s bond hearing?

High-powered Winston & Strawn litigators Dan Webb and Bradley Lerman were not at Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s side when he appeared at a bond hearing on Tuesday. Blagojevich instead tapped Sheldon Sorosky, a lawyer from two-partner Chicago litigation shop Kaplan & Sorosky. Whither Winston & Strawn?

Here’s a possible answer, from the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich owes more than $500,000 in unpaid bills to the law firm Winston & Strawn, his primary counsel since federal investigators began looking into various allegations of corruption five years ago. It is unclear whether the legal bills are for personal or campaign work, or for both. Campaign filings show Winston & Strawn had charged the governor’s campaign fund, Friends of Blagojevich, nearly $2 million in legal fees through the end of 2007.

“Friends of Blagojevich”: probably in short supply right now.

Update: As noted in the comments, if Winston & Strawn isn’t eager to rep Rod, it’s understandable. Recall how the firm blew $20 million defending Illinois’s last corrupt governor, George Ryan. It lost the trial, lost the appeal, and couldn’t even get pro bono credit for the thousands of hours spent on the case.

Blagojevich Has $500,000 in Unpaid Legal Bills [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]

Webb-less in Chicago: Where Was the Star Litigator At Blago’s Bond Hearing? [Am Law Daily]

* Renomination of Steven Bradbury to head OLC seen as diss to Dems. [New York Times]
* Barry Bonds seeks dismissal of perjury charges. Depends on what the meaning of “is” is? [San Francisco Chronicle via How Appealing]
* Senate debates whether to grant phone companies immunity from suits arising out of their helping out on warrantless wiretapping. [Washington Post]
* Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan seeks Supreme Court review of his conviction. [Chicago Tribune via How Appealing]
* Also turning to the SCOTUS: cheeky pro se litigant who forestalled foreclosure for 11 years. [WSJ Law Blog]
* You’ve got mail? Maybe not, at least at the White House, which is having some email archiving problems. [Washington Post]

George Ryan Illinois Governor George H Ryan Above the Law blog.jpgSince the tireless Howard Bashman is in transit, we’ll temporarily assume his role as super-timely provider of appellate litigation news.
This just in: A divided Seventh Circuit panel has affirmed the criminal convictions of former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan and his associate, Lawrence Warner. The majority opinion is by Judge Diane Wood (who is a judicial hottie); the dissent is by Judge Michael Kanne (who is reportedly not fat).
This is especially bad news for Winston & Strawn. As some of you may recall, the firm reportedly blew $20 million on defending Governor Ryan, on a pro bono basis.
United States v. Ryan [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit]

a million little lies.JPG* President Bush said yesterday that 14 “high-value” terror suspects, who were previously held in secret by the CIA, had been transferred to Guantánamo Bay, for possible trials before military tribunals. Gitmo’s not exactly the Four Seasons Nevis; but we suppose it’s an improvement. [New York Times; Washington Post]
* Former Illinois Governor George Ryan was sentenced to 6½ years in prison on federal corruption charges. Interesting factoid: “Ryan was the third former governor in Illinois history to be convicted of wrongdoing, all since the 1970s.” [Chicago Tribune]
* The court-appointed guardian of New York grande dame Brooke Astor’s assets in looking into whether her son improperly obtained some $14 million from his mother while “managing” her finances. [New York Times]
* James Frey, disgraced author of “A Million Little Pieces,” and Random House, his publisher, have reached a settlement with readers who filed lawsuits claiming they were defrauded. The terms of the settlement are a bit silly — but then again, the lawsuit was too. [New York Times]

James Thompson Illinois governor Above the Law blog.JPG
Former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson just resigned as chairman of Chicago legal powerhouse Winston & Strawn, after 13 years at the helm. Here’s what he had to say about his departure:

Thompson, 70, described the move as a natural transfer of power to younger lawyers. He noted that the firm had amended its rules twice so he could remain chairman beyond the mandatory retirement age of 65.

“I was supposed to step down as chairman five years ago,” Thompson said. “It’s time for the next generation — which is exactly what I said when I stepped down as governor.”

But perhaps there’s more to this than meets the eye. Thompson was brought in as a rainmaker — and rewarded with a salary in excess of $1 million. But then things went south:

In recent years Thompson’s patina as a rainmaker lost a bit of shine. As a board member of Hollinger International, Conrad Black’s former publishing empire, Thompson faced lawsuits and a Wells Notice from the SEC. He left the board earlier this year, but an unnamed source reportedly said to the Sun-Times: “He became an issue.”

He also came under some criticism — from both inside and outside his firm — for Winston & Strawn’s pro-bono defense of former Illinois governor George Ryan, who was indicted on corruption charges. The firm reportedly spent an estimated $20 million on Ryan’s defense.

The case didn’t end well: Ryan was convicted, and The American Lawyer refused to count the thousands of hours spent on the case as “pro bono” work. Wow — that’s one expensive lapse of judgment.
If you have any inside dirt you’d like to share about L’Affaire Thompson, email us.
Thompson resigns as law firm chief [Chicago Sun-Times via WSJ Law Blog]