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January 15, 2010 6:32 PM

The Sports Gambling Chronicles: First State Straps Up with Sidley Austin

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: Jan. 19, 8:15 a.m. The New York Times reports that Sidley Austin's Carter Phillips has also been hired by Wall Street's lobbying arm to study a possible legal battle against a bank tax proposed by the Obama administration.

Who needs American Needle?

The National Football League had a busy week before the U.S. Supreme Court, with coverage of its antitrust case against the Illinois-based retailer turning players like Drew Brees and Hunter Hillenmeyer into armchair legal analysts.

But we'll leave the American Needle saga in the Stickum-slick hands of our Supreme Court correspondent Tony Mauro, turning instead to another case we've followed closely the past few months that could have SCOTUS implications.

Delaware's plan to start a state-sponsored gambling lottery over the objections of the NFL, three other major North American professional sports leagues, and the NCAA was struck down by the Third Circuit in September, less than six months after Gov. Jack Markell embraced the issue.

Last month Markell's chief legal counsel, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom alum Michael Barlow, requested a 60-day extension to file a cert petition with the high court. Nancy Winkelman, appellate practice cochair at Philadelphia's Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis and a lecturer at Pennsylvania Law School, has been advising the state along with Delaware firms Bouchard Margules & Friedlander and Richards, Layton & Finger.

Vseitz

But Delaware's legal team is about to get a boost, reports The Associated Press. Markell and Barlow said on Thursday that the state would appeal the Third Circuit's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and had hired Sidley Austin appellate partners Virgina Seitz (pictured right) and Carter Phillips, managing partner of the firm's Washington, D.C., office, to handle the case. (Seitz and Phillips were not immediately available for comment.)

The Dover Post reports that the state has already spent $600,000 on legal fees in the case and has agreed to fork over an additional $50,000 to Sidley to prepare the next appeal. Should the Supreme Court agree to hear the case, the Post reports, the state and the firm will discuss the matter of additional fees.

Sidley has one of The Am Law 100's most well-regarded appellate and Supreme Court practices, having handled more than 100 cases before the nation's highest court since the practice group began in 1985.

A call to Kenneth Nachbar of Delaware's Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, who represented the sports leagues against the state, was not immediately returned by the time of this post. As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Nachbar got the call for the case when the NFL's regular outside counsel at Covington & Burling was swamped with several other matters for its longtime client.

Covington litigation chair Gregg Levy, the NFL's go-to outside lawyer, is currently carrying the ball for the league in the American Needle case.

Another Housing Settlement for a Sports Team Owner

A few months back, Donald Sterling, owner of the hapless Los Angeles Clippers, settled a housing discrimination suit filed by the Justice Department for $2.73 million. The settlement was the largest ever in a housing discrimination case filed by the Justice Department, and Sterling was excoriated in the press for his presumed bias against minority tenants, while owning a team in a sport where the majority of players are African American.

Enter Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers. This week the development company for the real estate billionaire settled a housing suit filed two years ago by the National Fair Housing Alliance, a consortium of nonprofits, individuals, and state and local civil rights agencies.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Stockton, Calif.-based A.G. Spanos Companies will pay more than $12 million to retrofit thousands of apartment units found to be in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The settlement covers 123 properties in 11 states owned by A.G. Spanos, which is run by the billionaire's sons, Michael and Dean.

Represented by Washington, D.C.'s Relman & Dane, the NFHA accused A.G. Spanos of flouting protocols requiring disabled-access adjustments for homeowners and renters that requested them. For their part, the Spanos sons claimed that they were unaware that their apartment properties were not up to code, which is what led them to pursue a settlement the plaintiffs appear grateful for.

"It's unusual for me to praise defendants in a case," NFHA president Shanna Smith told the Union-Tribune. "I've been doing this for 35 years, and we've had defendants who have said they would scorch the earth before they'd have a settlement with the Fair Housing Alliance. This is a landmark, unique, comprehensive settlement."

Michael Gurev from Stockton's Freeman, D'Aiuto, Pierce, Gurev, Keeling & Wolf advised A.G. Spanos in the case. Two other properties serving as defendants were advised by Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which also represented Sterling in his housing suit.

Orrick Attorneys Have Advice for Tiger

Just what Tiger Woods is looking forward to: more legal advice.

Adam Goldberg and Joshua Galper, co-leaders of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's law, policy, and crisis group, penned this tongue-in-cheek piece for The Huffington Post. In it, they offer some helpful suggestions for Tiger and others coping with front-page scandals of the heart.

Goldberg's previous service as special associate counsel to President Bill Clinton and Galper's background in political communications and speech writing make them ideally suited to prescribe crisis management solutions to lotharios twisting in the limelight.

Meanwhile, Simon Smith, a former partner at London-based media boutique Schillings, has left the firm in the wake of a controversial court victory he had for the lovelorn golfer last month.

O'Melveny Arranges Plea for Agent Zero

Our own Zach Lowe reported last week on Gilbert Arenas turning to O'Melveny & Myers's Kenneth Wainstein for help dealing with gun charges stemming from a locker room incident. Now Wainstein has reportedly helped Agent Zero reach a plea deal with federal prosecutors that will likely involve a minimal amount of jail time.

"He accepted full responsibility for his actions, acknowledged that those actions were wrong and against the law, and has apologized to all who have been affected by his conduct," Wainstein said in a statement. "Mr. Arenas appreciates the professionalism of the authorities handling this matter."

Around the Horn

-- If you haven't read Jason Fagone's superb piece in GQ about The Wire-like machinations of former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison, please plan for some weekend reading. Fagone's well-researched story has apparently caught the attention of the FBI, which has reportedly joined a probe into a 2008 shooting involving the ex-football star. (As an aside: Former Philly D.A. Lynne Abraham, who declined to file charges against Harrison, joined 178-lawyer mid-Atlantic firm Archer & Greiner earlier this month.)

-- Known for his high-powered offenses, former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach fired his latest legal salvo with a third amended petition against his old employer, which fired him just before the team appeared in the Alamo Bowl on January 2.

Leach, himself a lawyer, is accusing Texas Tech of breach of contract, wrongful termination, defamation, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Leach's suit includes a series of allegations against Texas Tech wide receiver Adam James and his father, ESPN football analyst Craig James. Ted Liggett and Paul Dobrowski are representing Leach in the suit, while the school has turned to Dicky Grigg of Austin's Spivey & Grigg.

-- Remember when Lenny Dykstra lived in a Southern California mansion once owned by Wayne Gretzky? That was before the ex-ballplayer that Mets and Phillies fans affectionately called "Nails" filed for bankruptcy last summer amid mounting legal bills and the collapse of his inexplicable stock-picking business.

According to The New York Post, an airplane leasing company is now trying to force poor Lenny "out of his latest lodgings--offices in their Camarillo, Calif., hangar." A bankruptcy judge has barred Dykstra from his former home after Nails tried to rip out and sell expensive furnishings like the kitchen sink.

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