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Personal-injury lawyers netted some big paydays for plaintiffs this year. Here's a look at the top 25 in our area. By Marisa M. Kashino, Caroline Cunningham, Emma Foehringer Merchant
Photo-illustration by Miles Donovan.

No. 1 — $9.5 million


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Derrick and Yalonda Gregg v. Wang K. Koon, MD, et al.

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Giles Manley and Jason Penn of Janet, Jenner & Suggs (Pikesville, Maryland).

Defense lawyer: John Penhallegon of Cornblatt, Bennett, Penhallegon & Roberson (Towson, Maryland).

This medical-malpractice case reads like every parent’s worst nightmare. In December 2005, the plaintiffs brought their two-week-old daughter, Desirae, to Laurel Regional Hospital. The baby hadn’t been eating and seemed short of breath. The hospital ran blood tests, then discharged her and directed the parents to follow up with their pediatrician. Desirae subsequently developed meningitis and suffered permanent brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy. The parents sued Maryland Provo-I Medical Services, the employer of Laurel’s emergency-room doctor, and the ER nurse. They argued that the hospital had delayed sharing Desirae’s bloodwork results, which showed a bacterial infection requiring immediate treatment, and that the delay caused her cerebral palsy. A jury awarded the family $9.5 million, ultimately reduced to $7.15 million because of a statutory limit on damages.

No. 2 — $5.75 million


Court: Fairfax County

Case: Bruce McLaughlin v. Shevlin Smith

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Thomas Plofchan Jr. of Westlake Legal Group (Potomac Falls).

Defense lawyers: David Hudgins and Reese Pearson of Hudgins Law Firm (Alexandria) and Joshua Hoffman of Franklin & Prokopik (Herndon).

Talk about a messy—and tragic—breakup. In 1996, plaintiff Bruce McLaughlin and his wife began divorce proceedings and a contentious custody battle. One son alleged he’d been sexually molested by McLaughlin, who was later charged with molesting all four of his kids and sentenced to 13 years in prison. McLaughlin’s case was reexamined in 2000, and an investigator determined that at least one child was coached by his mother and that none of the children had any actual memories of abuse. McLaughlin was exonerated and hired the firm Shevlin Smith to sue his trial attorneys for failing to defend him adequately. But Shevlin Smith made a critical oversight, so McLaughlin filed this legal-malpractice suit against the firm—and this time the jury was on McLaughlin’s side.

No. 3 — $3.3 million


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Colleen Bowen et al. v. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission et al.

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Timothy Maloney of Joseph Greenwald & Laake (Greenbelt).

Defense lawyers: Kenneth Thompson and Todd James Horn of Venable (Baltimore).

The plaintiffs sued their former employer for age discrimination after their positions in the IT department were terminated.

No. 4 — $2.475 million


Court: Arlington County

Case: Barbara Decker, personal representative of the estate of Jill T. Decker, deceased, v. Virginia Hospital Center

Plaintiff’s lawyers: William Artz and Andrew Waghorn of William E. Artz (Arlington).

Defense lawyers: Richard Nagle and Heather E. Zaug of Hancock, Daniel, Johnson & Nagle (Fairfax).

After Jill Decker died following wrist surgery at Virginia Hospital Center, her estate sued for medical malpractice and wrongful death.

No. 5 — $1.5 million


Court: Loudoun County

Case: David Brandon v. Michael Cummings

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Steven M. Frei and Matthew Perushek of Sickels Frei Mims (Fairfax).

Defense lawyer: Alicia Lehnes Summers of Michael L. Davis & Associates (Alexandria).

The defendant rear-ended the plaintiff, who said he sustained injuries that caused memory loss and fatigue.

No. 6 — $963,504


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Melissa Satterfield v. Sara Coe

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Laura Zois and Ronald Miller Jr. of Miller & Zois (Glen Burnie).

Defense lawyer: Thomas McManus of Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher (Upper Marlboro).

The plaintiff fractured her ankle after the defendant’s car collided with her SUV. Satterfield argued that the injury ended her career as a hairdresser. Because of a statutory cap, the award was eventually reduced to $776,504.09.

No. 7 — $749,250


Court: Howard County

Case: Jane Doe v. Joseph Caudill

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Jane Santoni and Victoria Chihos of Williams & Santoni (Towson).

Defense lawyer: Steven Shemenski of James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates (Baltimore).

The defendant was found guilty of kidnapping and assaulting the plaintiff in a criminal trial, but the jury deadlocked on a second-degree rape charge. The plaintiff then brought this civil action, alleging he raped her and caused her to suffer PTSD.

$550,000 (settlement)

Court: Montgomery County

Case: Jorge Mendez and Roxana Osorio, as parents of Tania Mendez, v. China Buffet Linco

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Afshin Pishevar of Pishevar & Associates (Rockville).

Defense lawyer: Eric Hitzel of Greenspan, Hitzel & Schrader (Silver Spring).

Seven-year-old Tania Mendez was dining with her parents at China Buffet in College Park in 2012. As the girl headed toward the ice-cream machine, a server carrying a vat of soup knocked into her, dumping the steaming liquid down her side. The accident caused severe burns, and Mendez had to get skin grafts. Her parents sued for medical bills totaling $30,000, plus future expenses, as well as compensation for their daughter’s pain and suffering. After months of negotiations, China Buffet agreed to settle.

No. 9 — $514,110


Court: DC Superior Court

Case: William H. Armstrong v. Karen Thompson, David Sutkus, and United States of America

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Kevin Byrnes of the Law Office of Kevin E. Byrnes (Falls Church).

Defense lawyers: Earl N. Mayfield of the Lewis Firm (Fairfax), George Elfter of Wolk & Neuman (DC), Michael Steadman Jr. of Council Baradel (Annapolis), and Robin Meriweather of the US Attorney’s Office (DC).

Ever wonder what could happen if you gave a negative review of a colleague to his potential future employer? This lawsuit shows the worst-case scenario. Armstrong, the plaintiff, was a special agent with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) when he was offered a job at the US Department of Agriculture. But before he could start the new gig, Thompson, the defendant, who was also employed at TIGTA, sent letters to USDA alleging that Armstrong was a liability and was being investigated by their agency. USDA subsequently rescinded Armstrong’s job offer, and he sued for defamation, emotional distress, and other claims. Thompson was unable to argue successfully that she was just doing her job by sending the letters, and the jury sided with Armstrong. (The case against the other two defendants was dismissed.)

No. 10 — $463,725


Court: DC Superior Court

Case: Vicie Burgess v. Ronald L. Anderson, MD

Plaintiff’s lawyer: John Sellinger of Greenberg & Bederman (Silver Spring).

Defense lawyer: Shadonna Hale of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker (DC).

The plaintiff sued her ophthalmologist for medical malpractice after she lost vision in her right eye following surgery.

$425,000

Court: US District Court for DC

Case: Frazier Caudle, Nikeith Goins, William James, et al. v. Metropolitan Police Department, Cathy L. Lanier, and the District of Columbia

Plaintiff’s lawyers: John Relman, Jennifer Klar, Megan Cacace, and Jia Cobb of Relman, Dane & Colfax (DC).

Defense lawyers: Kerslyn Featherstone, Stephanie Litos, and Charles Coughlin of the DC Office of the Attorney General.

This case made headlines for years as it wound its way through court. The five plaintiffs, all African-American, were undercover DC police officers when, in 2005, a white lieutenant was put in charge of their unit. The plaintiffs said he treated them differently than their white counterparts, and they sent an anonymous complaint to their commander. Soon after, the department announced that everyone in the unit would have to reapply for his or her job. The white lieutenant was ultimately allowed to keep his position while the plaintiffs were removed from the unit. They sued over discrimination and retaliation. Though claims against the department and the chief were tossed out, the suit against the city continued, and a jury awarded back pay plus attorneys’ fees.

No. 12 — $306,100


Court: Calvert County

Case: Abel Bennett and Mildred Bennett v. Gorman Wink, Brandon Wink, and GEICO

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Deborah Potter of the Jaklitsch Law Group (Upper Marlboro).

Defense lawyers: Marcia Harman of John Dahut & Associates (Silver Spring) and Rotrica Neal of Allstate Staff Counsel (Greenbelt).

The 87-year-old plaintiff tore his rotator cuff during a car crash with the defendant and, because of his age, was unable to have surgery, rendering his injury permanent, he says.

No. 13 — $275,000


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Catherine Jones v. Marlo Furniture

Plaintiff’s lawyer: John T. Everett of Chasen Boscolo (Greenbelt).

Defense lawyer: Kimberly Limbrick of Crosswhite, Limbrick & Sinclair (Baltimore).

The plaintiff sued after falling down three stairs while shopping at Marlo Furniture, hitting her face on a dresser and sustaining black eyes as well as back and knee injuries. The award was ultimately deemed excessive, and the parties reached a confidential settlement.

No. 14 — $200,000


Court: Prince William County

Case: Caroleanne Phillips v. John Doe

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Thomas Morrison, solo practitioner (Fairfax). Defense lawyer: Lewis Morris Jr. of Michael L. Davis & Associates (Alexandria).

After getting rear-ended in a hit-and-run, the plaintiff sued State Farm for damages under her uninsured-motorist policy, which allows a policyholder to be reimbursed when the offending driver is unknown. (Her award was later capped at $100,000.)

No. 15 — $120,000


Court: DC Superior Court

Case: Elizabeth Whitlock v. Kamaljit Sethi, MD, and Washington Nephrology Associates

Plaintiff’s lawyer: John Sellinger of Greenberg & Bederman (Silver Spring).

Defense lawyers: Crystal Deese, Benjamin Salsbury, and Larry McAfee of Gleason, Flynn, Emig, Fogleman (Rockville).

Whitlock sued her doctor and his practice for prescribing a high dose of prednisone that she said resulted in infection and kidney failure.

No. 16 — $106,739


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Alan Harrison v. Jaime Esposito, Dominique Powell, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Michael Robinett of Simeone & Miller (DC).

Defense lawyer: William Flood III of Council Baradel (Annapolis).

The plaintiff sued after he was rear-ended and suffered permanent lower-back injuries.

$105,000

Court: DC Superior Court

Case: Jacqueline Wright v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Michael Robinett of Simeone & Miller (DC).

Defense lawyer: Michael Guss of WMATA in-house counsel (DC).

A metro station that was allegedly too messy led to this verdict against WMATA. Wright, the plaintiff, went into the Fort Totten stop in February 2010 and stepped onto some netting that was meant to keep out birds but had fallen down eight days earlier. She claimed the netting made her slip and fall, resulting in a meniscus tear in her knee and a shoulder injury. Wright sued WMATA for putting passengers at risk by not picking up the netting and by failing to warn pedestrians. The agency argued that Wright simply neglected to watch her step, but the jury disagreed.

No. 18 — $75,000 (settlement)


Court: Fairfax County

Case: Shahnaz Khan v. Brian Hennessy

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Justin Beall of Koonz McKenney Johnson Depaolis & Lightfoot (Fairfax).

Defense lawyer: Jay Richard Goldman of Allstate Insurance (Chantilly).

Khan was driving on the Dulles Toll Road in heavy traffic when she was rear-ended by Hennessy. She sued for damages related to a rotator-cuff tear caused by the accident.

No. 19 — $68,380


Court: Howard County

Case: Gerard Butler, Shawna Fleming, and Tyler Butler v. Taylor Anne Cummings

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Nicholas Parr of the Law Office of Steven H. Heisler (Baltimore).

Defense lawyers: Linda Ham and Laverne Largie of the Law Offices of Jonathan P. Stebenne (Baltimore).

Plaintiffs were broadsided by the defendant’s vehicle. All of them claimed the collision caused neck and back injuries, and Gerard Butler said he suffered a mild traumatic brain injury.

No. 20 — $50,000 (settlement)


Court: US District Court for Maryland

Case: Amit Sharma v. Howard County; Ken Ulman, Howard County executive; et al.

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Morris Fischer, Morris E. Fischer Labor & Employment Law Firm (Silver Spring).

Defense lawyers: Gary Kuc and David Reid Moore of Howard County Office of Law (Ellicott City).

The plaintiff was a civil engineer for Howard County who claimed he was terminated for taking approved leave for a medical condition.

No. 21 — $35,150


Court: Howard County

Case: Patrick Snell v. Pradip Purushottam Amin

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Michael Silverman, solo practitioner (Columbia).

Defense lawyer: Thomas Basham of H. Barritt Peterson, Jr. & Associates (Towson).

Snell was rear-ended by the defendant’s vehicle and said he sustained neck and back injuries.

No. 22 — $30,169


Court: Howard County

Case: Peter Asaad v. Shelly Ann Schaal

Plaintiff’s lawyers: John Hermina and George Hermina of the Hermina Law Group (Laurel).

Defense lawyer: Clifford Robinson of H. Barritt Peterson, Jr. & Associates (Towson).

Asaad claimed his knee was injured after a car accident with the defendant.

No. 23 — $30,000


Court: US District Court of Maryland

Case: Aieda McCallum v. Archstone Communities

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Richard Salzman and Susan Huhta of Heller, Huron, Chertkof & Salzman (DC) and Matthew Handley of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (DC).

Defense lawyers: Nancy Delogu and Jennifer Thomas of Littler (DC).

Archstone, a property-management company, fired McCallum, a leasing agent, after she revealed she was pregnant, and she sued for discrimination.

No. 24 — $29,761


Court: Montgomery County

Case: Getachew Demissie v. John Franklin Ghee and Carlos Pompilio Sibrian

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Timothy Capurso of Gordon Feinblatt (Baltimore).

Defense lawyers: Matthew Goodman of Simmons, Fields & Fanshaw (Timonium, Maryland) and Tracy D. Scott of Leftwich & Ludaway (DC).

The plaintiff sued over injuries brought on by a collision with the defendants’ cars.

No. 25 — $28,816


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Shirley Williams v. Garry Savoy

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Norman Schneider of Kamerow Law Firm (Alexandria).

Defense lawyer: Alexander Williams III of Timothy Smith & Associates (Greenbelt).

Williams claimed back, head, and knee pain after the BMW she was riding in was rear-ended by the defendant’s minivan.

Posted at 01:54 PM/ET, 12/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
It was only a matter of time, and Reed Smith is leading the pack. By Marisa M. Kashino

And so it begins.

International law firm Reed Smith, which has offices in DC and Northern Virginia, rolled out its Global Ebola Task Force on Tuesday, making it the first of what we fear could be many firms to capitalize on the outbreak. In a press release, Sandy Thomas, Reed Smith's global (are you noticing a trend here?) managing partner, declared: "The virus has the potential to affect international commerce and trade, not just on the African continent, but worldwide. Our Global Ebola Task Force will put Reed Smith in front of the legal challenges our clients face.”

The new task force is billed as "cross-practice," which in law firm-speak means there's nothing really new about it. Lawyers already working at the firm within a variety of existing practices are now simply branded as members of the Ebola group, ready to answer client questions stemming from the disease. (It's the kind of marketing play that firms love—in the build-up to the new millennium, for instance, several started Y2K groups.)

So what kind of Ebola questions are cropping up? Lorraine Campos, a task force member and a partner in the firm's DC office, says she's received calls from pharmaceutical companies interested in the potential liabilities of attempting to develop a vaccine. She says other attorneys have gotten questions from companies wanting to know if they are legally obligated to hold an employee's job open if the worker gets quarantined, or if they're liable for employees who get infected while on business travel. So far, Campos says these have just been theoretical questions; the firm has not yet handled any actual cases or conflicts arising from Ebola.

Campos stresses: "We don't want to sensationalize the threat of the virus, but we do want to help prepare our clients."

(And mass-distribute a press release about it.)

Posted at 03:16 PM/ET, 10/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Will he return to Covington & Burling? By Marisa M. Kashino

Eric Holder. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

After six tumultuous years as US Attorney General, it looks as though Eric Holder will announce plans to leave the post today. That raises two big questions: Which law firm will he land at? And how much will it pay him?

Covington & Burling is the safe bet for where Holder will end up. Holder spent eight years as a partner there before President Barack Obama tapped him to head the Justice Department. The firm's partners tend to be a loyal bunch, plus Covington has done well in luring back other folks who left for Obama's DOJ. Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, returned last year to become vice chair of Covington. Daniel Suleiman, deputy chief of staff to Breuer while he was at Justice, also rejoined in 2013.

There's also the not-so-subtle hint that came in the form of the $1.5 million condo that Holder bought at CityCenterDC in April. At the time, it was noted that the pad was only a few blocks from the Justice Department. But soon, it'll be even closer to Covington & Burling, which plans to move into 400,000 square feet of CityCenter's trophy office space.

And what about that paycheck? Other officials as high-ranking as Holder have commanded $3, $4, and even $5 million upon their return to private practice. One of Washington's top legal recruiters notes that although Holder's tenure as AG wasn't without controversy, that probably won't impact his payday—which he predicts will be an annual take-home of between $4 and $5 million.

UPDATE, 1:45 PM: Covington & Burling declined to comment. 


Find Marisa M. Kashino on Twitter at @MarisaKashino.

Posted at 11:43 AM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The longtime Washington influencer died of a heart attack, his family says. By Benjamin Freed

Photograph courtesy of Squire Patton Boggs.

Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., the chairman emeritus of the big-time lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs, is dead from a heart attack at age 73, his sister, the journalist Cokie Roberts, tells the Washington Post.

Boggs reportedly died at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Monday morning, leaving behind a legacy of being one of Washington's biggest political dealmakers and fundraisers, but one whose clout had declined in the last year. A quick glance of Senate lobbying disclosures on which his name appears reads like a Fortune 500 list, including companies such as Amazon, Citgo, and AIG.

Boggs's influence on K Street was diminishing earlier this year in the wake of declining revenues and a long-running, costly case against Chevron. Patton Boggs was rescued in early June by merging with the law firm Squire Sanders, though as Washingtonian reported earlier this year, one of the longstanding problems at the old Patton Boggs was that there was no apparent successor to its founder.

Boggs was the son of two former members of Congress: Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., a Democratic leader from Louisiana until his death in 1972, and Lindy Boggs, who took over her late husband's seat and later served as the US ambassador to the Holy See.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

See also: Business Hall of Fame—Thomas Boggs Jr.

Posted at 12:42 PM/ET, 09/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Republican lawyer scored in Monday’s Supreme Court decision. By Marisa M. Kashino

Today’s long-anticipated Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court marks a win for the bench’s conservative members, but the victory is likely sweetest for Republican super-lawyer Paul Clement.

Clement—solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration, now a partner at Bancroft—has argued many of the highest-profile conservative causes at the high court in recent years. But he has frequently come up short, as we first detailed in December 2012. Last term, he advocated for the Defense of Marriage Act, losing in a historic ruling that gave same-sex couples in states that allow gay marriage equal access to federal benefits. The year prior, he challenged the Affordable Care Act before the justices, who ultimately upheld the law in a 5-4 victory for the Obama administration.

This morning’s ruling was also split 5-4, but this time in Clement’s favor. In the case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Clement represented the craft-store chain, as well as Conestoga Wood Specialties. Both companies asserted that for religious reasons, they should not have to comply with a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that they cover contraception for women employees. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion siding with the business owners.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision one of “startling breadth.” Echoing the concerns of women’s rights advocates nationwide, she wrote: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

As for Clement, he’s finally just ventured into the winner’s circle. 

Posted at 02:38 PM/ET, 06/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
After years as the law and lobbying industry’s first runner-up, Patton Boggs’s recent crash means the perennial also-ran has come out on top—for now. By Marisa M. Kashino
Illustration by Chris Philpot.

The first Monday in June began a new era for DC’s power peddlers. Over the weekend, the legendary law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs had finalized its merger with the Cleveland outfit Squire Sanders to create Squire Patton Boggs.

Both firms posted glowing marriage announcements on their websites—Squire Sanders celebrating its acquisition of not only a bigger base in the capital but also the town’s most storied lobbyist, Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. For its part, Patton Boggs gained new worldwide reach—the combined firm has offices in 21 countries—but everyone in the industry knew that Patton Boggs, in a tailspin for the past year and mired in fallout from a long-running, controversial case against Chevron, had been thrown a lifeline.

Far more interesting is what Akin Gump, for years the District’s second-place lobby shop, gets from the Squire Patton Boggs deal.

Akin had its own big announcements to make. The previous Thursday, it had made public a “significant expansion” of its health-care-policy team, with a group of seven led by veteran lobbyist John Jonas. That Monday brought news of four additions, led by telecommunications-policy partner Jennifer Richter. By week’s end, it had snagged five more health-care experts. All 16 recruits came from Patton Boggs. Anyone who knows anyone in the law/lobby trade could read between the lines: Akin Gump is poised to be the new king of K Street.

“Akin Gump is growing and taking work from Patton Boggs,” says a lobbyist from another high-ranking firm. “They’re positioned to be number one.”

Akin has run second to Patton Boggs in annual lobbying revenue since 2007, and Patton Boggs maintained its lead last year, posting $39.8 million to Akin’s $33.7 million. Compared with 2012, however, the totals represent a 13-percent drop for Patton and an 8-percent increase for Akin.

As Patton Boggs faltered, it faced frequent criticism that it relied too heavily on Boggs himself and had failed to institute a succession plan. (At the combined firm, Boggs is chairman emeritus.) Though Akin had its own struggles during the 2008 economic downturn, it may have benefited from its need to shake itself up periodically. Cofounder Bob Strauss, who died earlier this year, repeatedly left for political appointments, forcing partners to think beyond him. Today the firm is led by a relatively young female chair, Kim Koopersmith.

Not that Akin should get too comfortable. History shows that a firm’s time at the top is often fleeting. In 1998, a revered lobby shop called Verner, Liipfert was the highest-grossing in Washington. Patton came in first in 2003—one year after Verner, Liipfert was swallowed by a larger firm. Sound familiar?

The folks at Akin are wise to be cautious. Though he acknowledges that his firm may “very well be” number one, public-law-and-policy head Donald Pongrace says: “I haven’t done any of the math to figure it out. It doesn’t drive us because it doesn’t drive our clients.”

This article appears in the July 2014 of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:32 AM/ET, 06/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The District's top court says it was wrong for the DC Council to delay the election until 2018. By Benjamin Freed

Photograph courtesy Paul Zukerberg.

It appears DC residents will get to vote for an attorney general this year after all, the District’s highest court ruled Wednesday in issuing an opinion saying the DC Council acted illegally in delaying the first such election until 2018.

“It follows from our holding that an election must be held in 2014 unless it would not be practically possible,” writes a three-judge panel from the DC Court of Appeals. The ruling gives new life to attorney Paul Zukerberg’s quest to become the city’s first elected attorney general. Zukerberg, a criminal defense lawyer, sued the city last year after the Council passed legislation delaying the first attorney general contest by four years despite a 2010 amendment to the city’s charter that called for making the District’s top lawyer an elected position.

Zukerberg’s suit to put attorney general back on the ballot in time for the April 1 primary was dismissed in DC Superior Court in February, apparently squashing his political ambitions. But Zuckerberg’s appeal appears to have swayed the District’s top judges, who wrote that while the charter amendement reads that DC would begin electing attorneys general “after January 2014,” the Council was wrong see that as an opening to repeated delays.

The big wrinkle in today’s ruling is that the DC Board of Elections needs to determine if it’s feasible for an attorney general race to be added to the November ballot. In their ruling, the judges hint that with the primary elections already passed, the Board of Elections could use special-election rules to set a non-partisan race.

Reached by phone, Zukerberg says he is “absolutely” still a candidate. He was also the only candidate when the Council shelved the election, a decision Council members who supported the delay said was made because of a paucity of candidates and confusion over which city lawyers an elected attorney general would supervise. Those questions remain unanswered, but Zukerberg says he’s bracing for a contest. 

“I anticipate other candidates entering the race,” he tells Washingtonian. “We’ll have a real election just like we said we wanted to.”

Ted Gest, a spokesman for current DC Attorney General Irv Nathan (who was appointed to his post by Mayor Vince Gray), says his office is still analyzing the ruling.

UPDATE, 3:52 PM: Well, that didn't take long. In a statement, Nathan says his office plans to appeal today's order by asking the full Court of Appeals to review the decision:

We are studying the Court’s Order and awaiting its opinion.  We continue to believe that the Council of the District of Columbia had the authority to interpret the 2010 Charter Amendment to authorize a statute scheduling the Attorney General election to be in 2018, and we will be drafting a petition to the full en banc court of the D.C. Court of Appeals on that key point.  We will also be working with the Board of Elections and the Council to develop  a full explanation of the practical and legal issues associated with rushing to hold the Attorney General election in 2014, which we will present in any further Superior Court proceedings following the Court of Appeals’ final decision.

 

Posted at 02:55 PM/ET, 06/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The gloves come off in super-lobbyists’ marital split. By Carol Ross Joynt

Heather and Tony Podesta in 2009. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

And now for some less-than-friendly uncoupling. Power lobbyist Tony Podesta has filed a scathing request for divorce in DC Superior Court yesterday from his estranged wife, and fellow lobbyist, Heather Podesta.

The same day, Heather filed her countersuit.

Separated for more than 18 months after a decade of marriage, the couple, who have no children, protested when news of their split hit that the divorce would be amicable.

But in his filing in Superior Court, Tony, founder and chairman of Podesta Group, scores his wife not only for trading on his powerful name but for using it to boost the fortunes of her lobbying firm, Heather Podesta + Partners. “It takes a Podesta to take out a Podesta,” his filing quotes Heather as saying.

Tony also paints a portrait of Heather as a very junior partner in what became one of the highest-profile power matings in DC. “Ms. Podesta was 33 years old when the parties married,” his complaint reads, sniffily pointing out that she “was working for a trade association when she met Mr. Podesta” after stints at various law firms. “Ms. Podesta was earning approximately $55,000 per year at the time of the parties’ marriage.” His filing also notes that Heather, whom it refers to pointedly as Heather Miller, didn’t take the last name of either of her first two husbands before their 2003 marriage.

In Washington, a romance between unequally empowered parties is nothing out of the ordinary. Nor is it odd for the more modestly remunerated spouse to point out that it takes two to build a credible brand, as Heather points out in her more reserved complaint: “As a married couple who both lobbied,” the document says, “they strategically cultivated their public image, and worked to build their ‘Heather and Tony Podesta’ brand for the success of their shared enterprise.”

Tony remembers the caring—he says in his complaint that the relationship can be healed—but not the sharing. During their marriage, his filing says, her career “has risen meteorically . . . with Mr. Podesta’s assistance and connections. Mr. Podesta introduced Ms. Podesta to important political, social, and business contacts. [He] taught [her] about the lobbying industry, sharing with her the knowledge he had gathered through decades of experience.”

His larger point seems to be that everything she has, including anything she’s gained from her own business, streams from him. The filing indicates his side will argue that Tony should keep the significant art collection he brought to the marriage—what he calls “his separate property”; otherwise it requests an equal split of marital property.

Her filing, meanwhile, asks outright for their mansion on Belmont Road, Northwest, saying they developed the house together with the goal of creating “a uniquely beautiful architectural space for the dual purposes of having a wonderful home in which to live and promoting their shared interests, both professional and personal.”

But the tactic shows that the coming fight won’t be pretty: the complaint accuses Heather of seeking to “embarrass and harass” Tony “in an effort to gain economic leverage.”

At least now it’s a fair fight.

Posted at 02:19 PM/ET, 04/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Some of Washington’s top lawyers got their start in the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. By Marisa M. Kashino
DC lawyers Comey, White, Canellos, Ceresney, Horowitz, and Johnson owe thanks to the Big Apple. Photograph of Comey by Pete Marovich/Alamy; photograph of Canellos and Ceresney courtesy of SEC; photograph of Horowitz by Mark Wilson/Getty Images; photograph of Johnson by Zuma Press/Alamy.

Are you a lawyer who wants to run Washington? The place to start might be Manhattan. 

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has launched the careers of Cabinet secretaries, federal judges, senators, Congress members, even Supreme Court justices. Robert Khuzami, director of the Enforcement Division at the SEC until this year, is the latest example. 

Khuzami spent 12 years at the SDNY, rising to chief of its securities-and-commodities-fraud task force. He switched teams to Deutsche Bank, then returned to policing Wall Street as the SEC’s top cop in 2009. He recently joined the DC office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he reportedly makes upward of $5 million a year. 

As Khuzami explains, SDNY alums’ success is self-perpetuating: “The office has such a tradition of excellence, and that helps continue to attract the next generation of lawyers.” 

Plus, given the SDNY’s location, the lawyers who land there handle cases that often garner national attention—high-profile Wall Street investigations, Mob cases, international terrorism. 

Finally, the network of ex-prosecutors helps one another find opportunities. Among the alumni who served in the George W. Bush administration were homeland-security advisers Ken Wainstein and Frances Townsend and Attorney General Michael Mukasey. And Khuzami was in good company representing the SDNY in the current administration:

James Comey. Just installed as FBI director, Comey was US Attorney for the Southern District from 2002 to 2003. He also was deputy attorney general under George W. Bush.

Mary Jo White. The chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission preceded Comey as US Attorney for the SDNY, serving from 1993 to 2002. She was also an assistant US Attorney in the office.

George Canellos and Andrew Ceresney. After Khuzami stepped down, Canellos and Ceresney, both former assistant US Attorneys, took over as codirectors of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

Robert Litt. An assistant US Attorney early in his career, Litt has been general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence since 2009. He’s currently dealing with the controversy surrounding surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden.

Michael Horowitz. A prosecutor in the ’90s, he’s now inspector general of the Justice Department.

Jeh Johnson. Until the end of last year, Johnson, a former assistant US Attorney, was general counsel at the Department of Defense. He’s now a partner at Paul, Weiss.

This article appears in the October 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 10/01/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Zukerberg, best known for his pro-marijuana views, wants to stop the Council from delaying the city's first attorney general election. By Benjamin Freed

Photograph courtesy of Paul Zukerberg.
Paul Zukerberg, a defense attorney and one-time DC Council candidate who ran on a stridently pro-marijuana platform, is sparking up a new issue, though it has very little to do with the District’s weed laws. Zukerberg is suing the Council over its move to delay the District’s first attorney general election by four years, arguing that city legislators are willfully violating the city’s Home Rule Charter.

In 2010, DC voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to turn the DC attorney general’s office from an appointed one to an elected one. But in July, no potential candidates had expressed interest in running for the job, and Mayor Vince Gray’s office backed legislation to have more city lawyers report to his office rather than an elected attorney general’s.

Council member Jack Evans then introduced a bill to push the first attorney general election from 2014 to 2018. It passed on a first vote by an 8-5 margin, even with Council Chairman Phil Mendelson calling Evans’ move “an embarrassment.” But the bill is set to come up for a final vote tomorrow, and Zukerberg wants to move quickly.

“We need to get this resolved because the election cycle is about to begin and failure to resolve this issue has chilling effect on our rights to have a fair election,” he says. Candidates in next year’s elections can start petitioning voters for ballot access in early November, while primary votes are scheduled for April 1.

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Posted at 05:43 PM/ET, 09/30/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()