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    January 16, 2009  
Sanford Wittels;
Sterne Kessler

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Sometimes you walk right into a story—take yesterday, for example, when we got on an elevator at O'Melveny and bumped into former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger.


Walter tells us he and a group of veterans of the SG's office have been giving tips to Obama's SG pick Elena Kagan (current Harvard Law Dean) on what lies ahead in the confirmation process and beyond. Besides being chair of the firm's appellate group, Walter heads the Harvard Law/O'Melveny Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Clinic, so no surprise he's been lending a hand to his Cambridge colleague and would-be successor. With him here, new partner Maritza Okata.


Maritza and Steve Brody were why we'd stopped by: They're the two locals in O'Melveny's 15-member partner class of '09. And while neither has been Solicitor General (yet), they're impressive. Steve came to O'Melveny off a six-year stint at DOJ, part as acting director of the 35-member team working the U.S. RICO suit against cigarette manufacturers. One of DOJ's largest civil cases ever, it ended with judgment against all defendants (though a District Court ruling on disgorgement limited damages). Maritza, meanwhile, is a former Breyer clerk, corporate practitioner, and fluent Portuguese speaker. All the better for trips to Rio in her mom's native Brazil.

U.S. Marshals Hit With $300M Suit

On Wednesday we checked in on a small firm doing big-time work—David Sanford's Sanford Wittels & Heisler, a litigation boutique with 15 well-pedigreed lawyers. (Last week's hire: a Yale Law grad coming over from MoFo.) David, from Jones Day and Boies Schilller, attracts talent with high-profile plaintiff's-side civil rights work—20/20 was in line for an interview after Bisnow—like the novel race discrimination class action he filed in the late fall against the U.S. Marshals. The twist? While EEOC rules limit classes alleging discrimination (here, biased promotion decisions) to employees going back 300 days, David is looking to certify a class going back at least 10 years, potentially opening the Marshals to massive liability. The suit puts the preliminary damage figure at $300 million.


The theory: The EEOC "quietly"—and improperly—closed down a similar class action proceeding back in 1998, after the then-lead plaintiff was awarded a $4 million judgment. David tells us there are as many as 1,000 African American Marshals who should be included in the class, who relied on the 1998 class action claim to protect their rights. He got to know the Marshals' Service through another headline case—his representation of Marshal Arthur Lloyd, charged with first-degree murder after a road rage incident on Rockville Pike in which, David says, a crazed man was driving a Camaro toward Lloyd and his family when Lloyd shot him. Sanford Wittels attorney Stefanie Roemer got Lloyd acquitted on the murder charge; he was convicted of manslaughter.

Awards Show Preview

As people prepping for the Inauguration know, lots of planning goes into big events. Yesterday we peeked in on planning for this summer's Boy Scouts of America "Good Scout" Attorney of the Year affair. Big names like Ted Olson ('07) have won, and though we're not at liberty to reveal names bandied for '09, event founder Rob Sterne of Sterne Kessler (third from right) says that like last year when Jamie Gorelick of WilmerHale and plaintiff's star Bill Lightfoot shared honors, we're likely to see dual awardees. They're also hoping to match last year's fundraising haul of over $150,000. The crew from left: Chuck Wilkins of Venable; Virginia trial lawyer Tom Curcio, Bruce Pascal of CB Richard Ellis, Sterne Kessler COO Robert Burger, Rob's assistant Bonnie, Rob, and Mange Gundersen and Joe Kalamar of the Capital Area Scouts.


In keeping with our "Meet the New Partners" theme, at Sterne Kessler we dropped in on the firm's new partner for '09, Gaby Longsworth. She started at the shop back in '98 (hard to believe she's old enough—unless she applied some tricks from her Ph.D. in Human Genetics), before she got her law degree. After four years of night school at Georgetown, she stayed and now does patent prosecution for the likes of Marshall University and analyzes patents for a major generic drug manufacturer.

John Ford, Bisnow's Legal Editor, is praying the security lines for Inauguration are not as long as advertised. What are you doing for Inauguration? Send story ideas to john@bisnow.com.

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