The Work

September 14, 2010 7:45 PM

The Jay Mariotti Chronicles: Columnist Calls in Gibson Dunn Bigwig

Posted by Brian Baxter

Who does a high-profile sports columnist turn to when he finds himself in legal trouble? A prominent attorney from an Am Law 200 firm, of course.

Facing seven misdemeanor charges related to a domestic dispute involving his girlfriend, AOL Fanhouse columnist Jay Mariotti has retained Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Debra Wong Yang, a former U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. Yang cochairs the firm's crisis management practice and white-collar defense group.

Mariotti was arrested last month by the LAPD after allegedly getting into a fight with his girlfriend at a club in Santa Monica, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reports that the columnist was subsequently released on $50,000 bail.

Wong Yang did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how she came to represent Mariotti in the matter, but told The Associated Press that the allegations against her client, known for his loud and often abrasive tone opining on the athletes he covers, were "inaccurate and sensationalized."

Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush has decided to forfeit the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005 as a running back with the University of Southern California, according to The AP.

Pressure had been mounting for Bush to return the award since June, when the NCAA levied sanctions against USC--including erasing the Trojans' 2005 national football championship--for providing him and basketball player O.J. Mayo with improper benefits.

While the board of the Heisman Trophy Trust, which sponsors the annual award given to the best player in college football, was set to meet on Tuesday, there was no indication that it had decided to strip Bush of the award. The Trust has denied previous reports it had chosen to do so.

Carol Pisano, a litigation partner with McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvany & Carpenter serving as cocounsel to the trust, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Bush's decision. The Am Law Daily previously reported that Pisano was one of several lawyers holding positions with the Trust.

Bush's lawyer is Shawn Chapman Holley from Santa Monica's Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert. Holley, known for her superstar clients, also didn't respond to a phone call requesting comment.

NCAA Investigations a Boon for Lawyers

The harsh sanctions brought against USC that prompted Bush's Heisman decision was another sign that there may be a growing need for legal counsel in college sports. When we reported on former sports agent Gregg Clifton joining Jackson Lewis late last month, Clifton told us that one of the reasons behind his decision to start practicing law again was to advise colleges and universities dealing with an increasing number of NCAA and government regulations and investigations.

Examples of what Clifton was referring to include the NCAA's recent announcement of an investigation into Tennessee's basketball program and the suspension of a star Georgia receiver for selling his jersey to someone who allegedly qualifies as an agent. Incoming NCAA president Mark Emmert told The AP on Tuesday that he supports harsh penalties for rules violators.

It's probably not surprising then that The NLJ's Karen Sloan reports that the various probes are leading to a steady stream of business for firms with attorneys that specialize in NCAA-related legal matters. Syracuse's Bond, Schoeneck & King, Indianapolis-based Ice Miller, and Missouri-based Stinson Morrison Hecker are just some of the firms reaping the benefits from the long arm of the NCAA, according to The NLJ.

Racing Games

DLA Piper has announced it will take legal action in the U.K. against Spanish Formula One racing team Hispania Racing over unpaid legal fees dating back to early 2009, according to Legal Week. The Hispania team, which reportedly has been struggling with its finances, recently saw a member of its pit crew get run over by one of its own race cars.

In other racing news, Bloomberg reports that horse race track and casino operator Churchill Downs announced on Monday that it had agreed to buy Harlow's Casino Resort & Hotel in Greenville, Miss., for $138 million. Sidley Austin advised Churchill Downs on the acquisition, while Bingham McCutchen represented a group of private equity sellers owning Harlow's. The deal requires the approval of Mississippi gaming regulators.

Churchill Downs happens to be a creditor in the bankruptcy of Off-Track Betting, which filed for Chapter 9 last December in a case that saw Cravath, Swaine & Moore take its first-ever debtor's counsel assignment. An OTB executive recently put forth a restructuring plan for the public benefit corporation that could see creditors forgive nearly $100 million in debt, according to a statement by creditor's counsel at Blank Rome.

Around the Horn

-- The Ninth Circuit has backtracked on a sweeping set of data privacy guidelines aimed at protecting Fourth Amendment rights issued a year ago in connection with a federal probe into steroid use in baseball, reports sibling publication The Recorder, which notes that the Obama administration had sought a rehearing by arguing the guidelines were hampering criminal investigations. Keker & Van Nest partner Elliot Peters, named a Litigator of the Week in part because of the previous Ninth Circuit ruling, told The Recorder that the case still remains a victory for baseball players.

-- Football season may have just begun, but a group of lawyers from New Orleans-based Adams and Reese that sponsored a friendly wager over last year's Super Bowl--where the hometown Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts--took time to pose last week with with a N'awlins streetcar that had returned to the Big Easy after a six-month stopover in Indy as part of the bet, according to a local TV report.

-- The Colts themselves are teaming up with Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg and chairman Don Knebel in order to try to raise $41 million for United Way, partly though their own Super Bowl giveaway, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. Elsewhere in the Hoosier State, Indiana University athletic director and former Baker & Daniels partner Fred Glass is leading a charge to revitalize the school's football program, the IBJ reports. (Incidentally, the Fourth Circuit recently ruled that playing the sport without equipment is not obviously dangerous.)

-- The Fourth Circuit made some more football-related news when it ruled earlier this month in favor of an amateur artist who created the original logo for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, according to reports by Courthouse News and The AP. Frederick Bouchat, represented by Howard Schulman of Baltimore's Schulman & Kaufman, has been locked in a long-running copyright battle with the team over the winged-B design. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan IP partner Robert Raskopf, who has also handled cases for the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, represents the Ravens in the dispute.

-- Only a few days after McGuireWoods helped Elin Nordegren formalize her divorce from Tiger Woods, the firm received documentation for a $54 million mortgage on a home owned by Woods in Jupiter Island, Fla., which the golfer will use to help pay off his ex-wife, according to The Palm Beach Post.

-- Since we've previously reported on Sidley Austin being named principal outside counsel to Chicago's now-defunct bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, it's worth noting that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is serving as lead legal adviser to the organizing committee for the 2012 Olympics in London. Law Gazette reports that the U.K.'s Law Society and Bar Council is seeking to establish a pro bono panel for the games where firms provide representation to athletes and their teams in legal proceedings presided over by international arbitrators.

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