• Trending Now in News & Politics
  • DART
  • Georgetown
News & Politics

Phantom of the Courtroom

If the government’s public-corruption case against Senator Ted Stevens goes to trial this fall as scheduled, Washingtonians will have a rare chance to see the city’s top trial lawyer in action.

Fellow criminal-defense attorneys say they are lining up front-row seats at the federal courthouse for what might be the legal season’s show of shows.

Not since he became famous during the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987 has Brendan Sullivan, now 66, had a chance to perform before a home audience. The Williams & Connolly star has tried his most noteworthy cases in recent years in Houston, Toledo, Hartford, and New York City.

The only disappointment colleagues are expressing is that watchers likely will not get a glimpse of Sullivan’s mysterious partner and usual right-hand man, 58-year-old Barry Simon.

Even at a firm without a media specialist, Simon—a Harvard-educated former Supreme Court clerk—is almost monastic in his zeal for anonymity. He is the only W&C partner without a bio or photograph on the firm’s Web site. It does list a phone number and e-mail address, but people who try to communicate with him often come up empty.

Simon seldom returns reporters’ calls or gets quoted in a story despite more than 20 years of assisting Sullivan on some of his most challenging cases—including the defense in Houston of former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

Simon now is heavily involved in a West Coast criminal case in which an executive of a computer-networking company has been indicted for fraud and for supplying customers with prostitutes and drugs.

With or without Simon, few observers are rooting for a plea agreement in the Stevens case. And the only people who might be rooting for a change of venue to Alaska would be executives at Alaska Airlines.

This article appears in the September 2008 issue of Washingtonian magazine. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos