The Work

June 13, 2008 10:19 AM


Posted by Ed Shanahan

Edited by Andrew Longstreth


His historic U.S. Supreme Court Win Gives Habeas Corpus Rights to Gitmo Detainees
Our Litigator of the Week honors go to Seth Waxman of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, whose pro bono Guantanamo Bay detainee clients were extended habeas corpus rights in a dramatic decision handed down by the Supreme Court yesterday . Waxman, 57, briefed and argued the case on behalf of six Algerians who emigrated to Bosnia and Herbegovnia during the 1990s and were arrested by Bosnian officials, allegedly under pressure from the U.S., after 9/11.

Twice before, the high court had ruled against the Bush Administration in similar cases, but that trend appeared in doubt in December, when this case was argued, according to Tony Mauro's account in Legal Times. Waxman, a former Clinton Administration solicitor general, delivered powerful arguments nevertheless.

After six years of detention, he told the Justices, the Gitmo prisoners deserved the right to challenge their detention. "[T]his court should issue a ruling saying for these people, if the writ means anything, the time for experimentation is over," he said. Read the entire transcript of the Supreme Court argument here

In the end, Waxman maintained the string of victories for detainees at the Supreme Court, upholding the principle of habeas corpus. And for that, he is our Litigator of the Week.


Milberg Reportedly Close To Deferred Prosecution Deal
Zuckerman Spaeder's William Taylor wasn't able to prevent federal prosecutors in L.A. from indicting the law firm once known as Milberg Weiss (now just plain Milberg) in the lead plaintiff kickback case, but it looks increasingly likely that he'll get the firm off without a guilty plea. The deferred prosecution deal that Bloomberg reports is on the table will require Milberg to pay $75 million.

Nathan Koppel of The Wall Street Journal had a similar story earlier this week. Koppel cited anonymous sources who said the Milberg firm had asked the Bill Lerach spin-off, Coughin Stoia, to chip in a portion of the $75 million. The Coughlin firm, which has not been named in the kickback case, refused.


K&L Gates Bills $1 Million In Sonics Case--So Far
Next week, K&L Gates partner Paul Lawrence will be in trial representing the city of Seattle, which is trying to keep its NBA team, the Sonics, in town for two more seasons. Lawrence and his firm have already charged the city more than $1 million in fees, despite discounting their rates by ten percent, according to The Seattle Times.

A million bucks is a lot of dough, sure, but Lawrence's hourly fee of $420--or even the $685 an hour billed by his partner, former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton--seems relatively modest by the standards of New York, where senior partners are quietly breaking the $1,000 an hour barrier. No wonder Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey, who famously charges an hourly rate of $1,100, moved here from Houston last year.


Chadbourne's Thomas Bezanson Now Mr. Popular In New York Courtrooms
If you get into a jam in New York state court, Chadbourne & Parke's Thomas Bezanson may be your man. Yesterday he made himself a lot of friends in the state judiciary, winning a ruling (from a New York state judge, natch) that the governor and the state legislature have 90 days to raise judge's salaries, which have been unchanged since 1999. (The salary of New York trial judges--$136,700--wouldn't be enough to pay a first-year associate in the Am Law 100.) Bezanson represents four state judges who claim they're owed a collective $650,000 in back pay from the state.

It may be no surprise that a New York judge--Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward Lehner--found in favor of his colleagues in his ruling on Wednesday. But it appears to be an important opinion, nonetheless. (You can read it here, via The Am Law Daily,.) Lehner held that the the executive and legislative branches had violated the state's constitutional separation of powers doctrine by linking judicial salaries to those of others in the government.

We called Bezanson yesterday to ask if he's getting e-mails or calls from New York judges. "Oh, sure," he told us, rather matter-of-factly. "I think some members of the judiciary are very heartened by this decision."

Well, yeah. But does his victory mean that the judges he represented will have to recuse themselves to avoid a conflict of interest if he turns up in their courtrooms? "That would have to be decided by the judges on the circumstances at the time," said a very circumspect Bezanson.


Judge Cote Denies Discovery Request In Wage Hour Litigation Against Bristol
Wage and hour litigation has been all the rage in the employment law business over the last few years, as Business Week noted in a cover story last fall.

One potentially important case for the pharmaceutical industry involves a sales rep at Bristol Meyers Squibb who claims she was wrongly classified as exempt from overtime pay. Manhattan federal district court judge Denise Cote recently denied a discovery request by the plaintiff for the names and addresses of other Bristol Myers sales reps, whom she intended to notify of the action. Read the opinion here via Courthouse News. Proskauer attorneys Bettina Plevan and Joshua Alloy helped Bristol Myers dodge that bullet. The plaintiff is represented by lawyers from Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady; Gillespie, Rosen, Watsky & Jones; Sanford, Wittels, Heisler; and Kingsley & Kingsley.


Opening Statements In Children's Motrin Case to Begin Monday
Browne Greene, a partner at Greene Broillet & Wheeler, has a heartbreaking story to tell a jury Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. (Arguments were originally to begin today but were delayed by jury selection.) Greene's client, Sabrina Brierton Johnson, was six years old when she took a Children's Motrin. She subsequently went blind in both eyes. Johnson, who has since been diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome--a potentially fatal autoimmune disease that usually results from an allergic reaction to drugs--sued Motrin maker Johnson & Johnson for product liability, negligence, and personal injury in December 2004. According to a spokesperson for Greene Broillet, the case is the first of its kind to go to trial. Thomas Pulliam, Jr. and Charles Preuss of Drinker Biddle and Christy Jones of Butler Snow are representing J&J.


Lukey to Ropes & Gray
The Am Law Daily reports that after 34 years at Wilmer, trial lawyer Joan Lukey is heading to Ropes & Gray. The 58-year old Lukey's clients include best-selling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, Brown University, and industrial vision manufacturer Cognex. She's also the incoming head of the American College of Trial Lawyers.


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