Supreme Court Suggests Forcing Lawyers to Pay Bar Association Dues Violates Their Free Speech

The U.S. Supreme Court may be on verge of upsetting the longstanding system of states requiring lawyers to pay dues to bar associations, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At least 30 states require the dues, in most cases with bar associations regulating the legal profession by licensing lawyers and disciplining those who violate the rules. Lawyers in turn are required to pay dues to cover the cost, explains the TimesDavid G. Savage.

Savage writes:

“In a brief order on Monday, the court overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld mandatory bar dues in North Dakota and sent the case back “for further consideration in light of Janus.”

In Janus v. AFSCME, the court last June struck down state laws in California and elsewhere that required teachers and other public employees to pay fees to support a union.

Read the LA Times article.



Newspaper Report Foils Trump Labor Secretary’s Chances of Being the New AG

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is out of the running to be President Donald Trump’s attorney general following a Miami Herald report that he oversaw a sweetheart deal for a wealthy financier accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, according to two people close to the president.

Acosta was a federal prosecutor in Florida before going to Washington, the two advisers said.

Herald report Anita Kumar explains:

The investigation, which reported that Acosta, then U.S. attorney, cut a secret deal to allow billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to serve only 13 months in a county jail, is “clearly something” that is being widely circulated among Trump aides, one of the people said. The agreement “essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe” and granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators,” according to the story.

Read the Miami Herald article.




Controversial Trump Judicial Nominee in Peril of Senate Defeat

NBC News is reporting that a controversial judicial nominee is in danger of being derailed in the U.S. Senate because of objections over his past work defending state laws viewed as discriminatory and senate leadership’s refusal to vote on legislation aimed at protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

NBC reporters Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp V explain: “Thomas Farr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, has come under fire because of his work on cases that Democrats say have disenfranchised African Americans from voting. That issue has at least one GOP senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, undecided on whether to support Farr’s confirmation.”

And Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is blocking all judicial nominees, including Farr’s, until GOP leaders agree to hold a vote on a bill to put up guardrails against any threat of Trump firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Read the NBC News article.



Attorney’s Eye-Popping $460,000 in Earnings to Defend Indigent Clients Prompting Changes

A Texas county is adding more controls after fees to an attorney representing indigent clients this past fiscal year topped $460,000 — more than double the amount of any other court-appointed lawyer in Collin County, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Attorney Marc Fratter, 46, also earned significantly more than anyone on the county payroll, including the district judges who approved his pay sheets, according to reporter Valerie Wigglesworth.

“Fratter said he put in long hours — billing as much as 100 hours a week at times — with his one-man firm handling the workload of as many as six attorneys. He pointed to judges’ signatures on all of his pay sheets. “I’m not hiding anything,” he said.

Read the Dallas News article.



Katie Ashley Joins Bradley as Senior Advisor for Government Affairs

Katie Ashley, former director of legislation for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, has joined Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP’s Nashville office as a senior advisor in Bradley’s Government Affairs and Economic Development practice groups.

“We are thrilled to welcome Katie to our firm as a senior advisor on diverse government affairs and economic development issues,” said Bradley Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board Jonathan Skeeters. “Katie’s experience and wealth of knowledge gained during her long tenure as a key official in the Tennessee governor’s administration will be great assets to our clients.”

In a release, the firm said Ashley represents clients before the executive and legislative branches of government in Tennessee and Washington, D.C., helping to develop successful strategies for achieving clients’ business goals.

As the chief legislative executive for Haslam, Ashley advised the governor, his senior staff and 23 department commissioners on political strategy and legislative affairs. The Office of the Governor’s press release states that during her eight-year tenure with the Haslam administration, Ashley played an essential role in budget matters and policy development that led to Tennessee being recognized as a national leader in education, economic development, efficient and effective government, and fiscal strength. Among her achievements, Ashley helped launch the Drive to 55 initiative, with the goal to increase to 55 percent the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential by the year 2025 to meet future workforce demands. Ashley’s legislative efforts also helped Tennessee become the first state in the nation to offer high school graduates a chance to earn a certificate or degree beyond high school free of charge and with a personal mentor.

Previously, Ashley worked for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in Washington, D.C.

Ashley received her Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and is not an attorney.



2018 Eastern District of Texas Bench Bar Conference Sets Attendance Record

The Eastern District of Texas Bench Bar Conference set a new attendance record this year with more than 450 attendees gathering in Plano, Texas, for three days of programming and panel discussions focused on the diverse legal cases handled by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Andrei Iancu, U.S. Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, delivered a major policy address during the event.

Iancu’s speech at the Inaugural Texas Dinner in Honor of the Judiciary and 7th Amendment was reported by many media outlets as a push back against the “patent troll” narrative that has encircled America’s intellectual property system for more than a decade.

Read details about the conference.




Jackson Walker Lawyers Offer Election Day Assistance to Reporters Covering Voting

First Amendment lawyers with Jackson Walker LLP are assisting the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press with challenges journalists may face at polling places on Election Day.

“There are very specific restrictions in all states regarding access to polling places, and some polling officials may overreach – beyond what the law allows – in trying to keep reporters away,” said Joshua Romero, one of the lawyers providing legal guidance.

“In Texas, a person may not use a cell phone, camera or other recording device within 100 feet of polling places. However, the Texas Secretary of State has adopted a policy of permitting ‘non-disruptive’ exit polling within the 100-foot protected area,” Romero said.

“Also, ballot selfies that include a photo of a voter or journalist with a completed ballot have been a hot topic at times,” he said. “All of these issues involve First Amendment rights that courts across the country have struggled to address.”



DOJ Announces Guidelines to Reduce the Imposition of Monitorships in Corporate Criminal Cases

ComplianceThe Justice Department’s Criminal Division has announced updated policies and procedures related to the selection of corporate monitors in federal criminal cases, according to an advisory written by Paul N. Monnin, a partner in Alston &. Bird.

He writes:

The memorandum makes clear that “the Criminal Division should favor the imposition of a monitor only where there is a demonstrated need for, and clear benefit to be derived from, a monitorship relative to the costs and burdens.” In short, a monitor is now disfavored “[w]here a corporation’s compliance program and controls are demonstrated to be effective and appropriately resourced at the time of resolution.”

The article also includes a link to a PDF of the DOJ advisory.

Read the article.



Pipeline Companies Should Do More to Prepare for NTSB Accident Investigations

The National Transportation Safety Board is well known for its sleuthing on plane crashes. However, oil and gas executives often need better education about how the agency tackles one of its other responsibilities—investigating pipeline accidents, advise attorneys with the national law firm LeClairRyan.

The catastrophic gas explosions that destroyed dozens of homes in Massachusetts this month have called attention to the NTSB’s role in investigating such incidents, noted Mark A. Dombroff, an Alexandria-based member of LeClairRyan and co-leader of its Transportation Industry practice. “Most, but not all, in the pipeline business are aware that something like this will immediately trigger a federally mandated and led investigation,” he said. “But their counterparts in aviation tend to be far better prepared to contend with the highly specific—and high-stakes—investigative process relied upon by NTSB.”

Read the article.




Florida Supreme Court Foils Governor’s Plan to Pick New Justices

The Associated Press reports that Florida’s next governor and not incumbent Gov. Rick Scott will get to pick three new justices to the state Supreme Court, the court ruled in a decision with major implications in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

“In a major rebuke to Scott, the Supreme Court concluded that the Republican governor exceeded his authority when he started the process to find replacements for the three justices,” the AP reports.

Because of age limits of 70, three justices must retire at midnight Jan. 8, the same day Scott is scheduled to leave the governor’s office. Scott, claiming he had authority to name the replacements, last month asked a nominating commission to start accepting applications with a Nov. 10 deadline.

Read the AP article.



Trump Reportedly Floating 5 Different Names to Replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions

President Donald Trump believes Attorney General Jeff Sessions will likely leave his Cabinet at the end of the year, and so far has five potential replacements in mind who could take his place, reports Business Insider.

“Possible successors include retired federal appeals judge Janice Rogers Brown, transportation department counsel Steven Bradbury, Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, and Bill Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush,” according to the article, based on a Wall Street Journal report.

The Washington Post also reported that President Trump talked recently with Sessions’ own chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker,  about replacing Sessions as AG, according to people briefed on the conversation, signaling that the president remains keenly interested in ousting his top law enforcement official.

Read the Business Insider article.




Discrimination Defense Lawyer Confirmed for Trump Civil Rights Post

Bloomberg Law reports that the U.S. Senate has confirmed Eric Dreiband, a Jones Day attorney who defends companies accused of discrimination, to lead the Justice Department office that enforces anti-bias laws and investigates police civil rights cases.

“Dreiband represented the University of North Carolina when it implemented policies under the state’s since-repealed ‘bathroom bill,’ requiring people to use gender-designated restroom facilities based on the biological sex listed on their birth certificates,” writes Bloomberg’s Chris Opfer. “He also won a case for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco that made it harder for workers to sue for age discrimination under federal law.”

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Morrison & Foerster Will Eat $16M in Fees, Costs Pursuing Vets’ Claims

The law firm that spent nine years fighting and winning health care for veterans subjected to government-administered human testing of chemicals including sarin, mustard gas, and LSD was awarded $3.4 million in fees, a small fraction of the value of the hours the firm said it put into the case.

Bloomberg Law reports that Morrison & Foerster LLP accepted a fee award from the U.S. Army that’s $16 million less than the fee the firm could have sought.

“The fee award is the latest and nearly last chapter in the litigation by soldiers subjected to the government’s decades-long human testing program who were seeking recognition and health care above what they could get at the Veterans Administration for injuries they suffered,” writes Bloomberg’s Joyce Cutler.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.




BigLaw Partner Deletes Twitter Account After Insult Toward Trump Press Secretary

Sullivan & Cromwell partner Francis Aquila deleted his Twitter account after he posted a response to presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in which he told her to “Rot in Hell You B!tch.”

The ABA Journal reports that the tweet was “a sarcastic response to the White House press secretary after she praised Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had attacked Democrats motivations during a spirited defense of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.”

In an email to his firm colleagues, Aquila wrote: “Last evening, I responded to a tweet from Sarah Sanders in an inappropriate and hurtful manner. Clearly my emotions got the best of me, but equally clearly neither Ms. Sanders nor any woman should be subjected to such animus. I take full responsibility for my ‎actions and I sincerely apologize to Ms. Sanders.”

Read the ABA Journal article.



Inside the Private Justice Department Meeting That Could Lead to New Investigations of Tech Giants

The Washington Post reports on a meeting of the country’s top federal and state law enforcement officials on Tuesday that could presage sweeping new investigations of Amazon, Facebook, Google and their tech industry peers.

Participants voiced lingering frustrations that these companies are too big, fail to safeguard users’ private data and don’t cooperate with legal demands.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened the meeting by raising questions of possible ideological bias among the tech companies and sought to bring the conversation back to that topic at least twice more, according to D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine,” according to reporters Brian Fung and Tony Romm.

But other participants steered the conversation toward the privacy practices of Silicon Valley.

Read the Washington Post article.



State Supreme Courts Increasingly Face Partisan Impeachment Threats

Courthouse - bankAttacks on judicial independence are becoming more frequent and more partisan, according to a Governing report.

Reporter Alan Greenblatt explains, that “while ‘threats of this nature have been going on for years,’ says William Raftery of the National Center for State Courts, articles of impeachment are now being filed more often and for more reasons. Over the past decade or so, judges have become targets of criticism not only from politicians but cable talk-show hosts. In the past, grounds for impeachment have typically been treason, high crimes or malfeasance. That’s changing. These days, lawmakers’ partisan disapproval of rulings appears to be a strong motivator for ousting judges.”

Read the Governing report.




NDAs: Confidentiality and Context in the Workplace

The battle between the White House and Omarosa Manigault over the scope of her disclosures brings the issue of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA), and their efficacy and enforceability to the forefront, points out a blog post for Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel.

“Employers frequently seek to use NDAs as a sword once the employment relationship is broken or a termination takes place,” writes Dove A.E. Burns. “However, employers often require such agreements in order to broadly limit disclosure far beyond what is legally enforceable. Reaching in this manner can lead to legal liability, nullification and an ethical quagmire.”

Her article discusses the law regarding NDAs for government employees and for non=government employees.

Read the article.



Former Dewey Chairman Reaches Agreement With SEC to Pay Six-Figure Civil Penalty

The ABA Journal reports that former Dewey & LeBoeuf chairman Steven Davis has reached an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to pay a $130,000 civil penalty.

The SEC alleged that some executives of Dewey & LeBoeuf, which closed in 2012, misled lenders and bond buyers about the firm’s financial condition.

Dewey’s former finance director former controller also agreed to pay civil penalties.

Read the ABA Journal article.



Michael Best Adds Former White House Deputy Counsel in Washington, D. C.

Stefan Passantino, former White House Deputy Counsel in charge of compliance and ethics oversight, has joined Michael Best’s Government Relations, Public Policy & Compliance Practice Group in Washington, D.C. Passantino is the newest addition to join Michael Best’s team of former White House staff, including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

In a release, the firm said Passantino joins Michael Best after serving as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel since January 2017. An Atlanta native, Passantino’s work in the political law and compliance arena dates to the early 2000s. Passantino previously chaired the Political Law group at McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP, which then merged with the global law firm Dentons U.S., LLP, where he counseled corporations, advocacy and lobbying groups, candidates and campaigns on matters of election law, state and federal lobbying rules, and ethics regulations compliance.

“I’ve known Stefan to be an exceptional attorney with an inherent ability to understand the complexities of regulatory and compliance matters better than most seasoned veterans in Washington,” said Reince Priebus, President of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP and Chief Strategist for Michael Best Strategies LLC. “His addition will be a statement to our industry and underscore our strategic vision in the Beltway and nationally. Michael Best is taking important steps to make its mark on Washington, D.C., as a new power player in town.”

At Michael Best, Passantino will focus his practice on serving corporations and businesses in the areas of campaign finance, public policy, and compliance counseling concerning the rules and regulations related to corporate involvement in political activities, the firm said.

“Stefan is a great addition to our firm having served at the highest level of the Executive Branch, and his extensive experience will greatly benefit our clients,” said David Krutz, Firm Managing Partner of Michael Best. “A Chambers rated lawyer, Stefan is widely respected for his temperament and ability to provide sound counsel concerning campaign and ethics compliance — and he will strengthen our already strong presence inside the Beltway.”

“Our strategic initiatives to expand our business presence and bring on valuable, top-level, talent are bolstered by the addition of Stefan. He will be a key asset in our efforts to provide the broadest and highest-level counsel to our clients,” said Kevin Barner, managing partner of Michael Best’s Washington, D.C., office.

The addition of Stefan Passantino comes on the heels of Michael Best announcing the relocation of its Washington, D.C., office to 1000 Maine Ave., “The Wharf,” where it is scheduled to occupy the space in early 2019.

Passantino earned his J.D. from the Emory University School of Law, where he served as managing editor of the Emory Law Journal and received his B.A. in Political Science from Drew University.



Senate Confirms Trump ‘Not Qualified’ Nominee and Obama Pick

The Senate reached a deal Tuesday to swiftly confirm seven federal district court judges, helping President Donald Trump put an enduring stamp on the U.S. judiciary, reports Bloomberg.

One of the Trump nominees, Charles Barnes Goodwin in the Western District of Oklahoma, had been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Goodwin’s “work habits, including his frequent absence from the courthouse until mid-afternoon,” raised doubts among a majority of the members of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

Susan Paradise Baxter, whom President Barack Obama also nominated but who was stalled by the Republican-controlled Senate, was confirmed to the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on a second failed Obama nominee to the same court, Marilyn Jean Horan, along with seven other district court nominees, “at a time to be determined next week.”

Read the Bloomberg article.