Govt. Must Reveal Some Eavesdropping Info

NEW YORK (AP) — Justice Department employees involved in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Sept. 11 detainees must disclose whether they know of any government monitoring of conversations between the detainees and their attorneys, a judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold ruled in response to a motion by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human rights group representing the detainees. It filed the motion after the public disclosure in December of a secret government program that allowed investigators to eavesdrop on international communications between Americans and people suspected of terrorist ties.

The class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York in 2002 on behalf of hundreds of Arab and Muslim men who were detained and deported as part of the government’s investigation into the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The center had asked the judge to order the government to disclose whether telephone, e-mail or other communication between detainees and their lawyers had been monitored or intercepted since the detainees left the country.

The Justice Department said its lawyers and support staff hadn’t received any attorney-client communications and that such conversations wouldn’t be used in its defense.

But the government would not say whether employees or potential witnesses knew of any monitoring, saying such a disclosure could reveal classified information. It said it would allow witnesses to pick one of a series of statements about what they knew but reserved the right to call witnesses who refused to sign any statement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights applauded the ruling. “Now they have to step forward and answer some tough questions,” said the center’s legal director, Bill Goodman.

Detailse here from the AP.

‘A-List’ Firms Talk Merger

In 1918, the last year the Red Sox won it all, Richard Hale and Dudley Dorr merged their firms to form Hale and Dorr, which grew into one of Boston’s largest and most prestigious law firms. Now the partners who followed Mr. Hale and Mr. Dorr are moving toward a new merger, one that would double the size of their firm to nearly 1,000 lawyers.

According to executives involved in the negotiations, Hale and Dorr is in serious talks with Wilmer Cutler Pickering, a Washington, D.C., firm that includes Lloyd N. Cutler, former counsel to presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and C. Boyden Gray, counsel to former president George Bush. Both firms have about 500 lawyers and revenues of about $300 million. Wilmer Cutler ranked number 10 on the American Lawyers’ “A-List” of top US law firms; Hale and Dorr was number 13.

Details here from The Boston Globe.

Bronx Judiciary Awash in Patronage, All Legal

Last summer, Justice Douglas E. McKeon, up for re-election to State Supreme Court in the Bronx, decided he needed to raise some campaign money. The judge, though, did not turn to the residents of the Bronx to back his candidacy. Instead, his campaign solicited money from scores of lawyers, including many who regularly appear before him in court. Within weeks, his campaign had reaped more than $50,000.

Justice McKeon’s mixing of politics and the courts is neither illegal nor isolated. Over the years, the roughly 20 judges who handle civil litigation in Supreme Court in the Bronx � virtually all of whom owe their jobs to the Bronx Democratic Party � have operated, day in and day out, in a world suffused with politics.

Consider, for instance, the court’s dealings with Gerald L. Sheiowitz. Judges on what is known as the civil term of the Supreme Court in the Bronx have awarded him more than $300,000 in legal work in recent years, a formidable sum among the lawyers who work the courtrooms on the Grand Concourse.

No one disputes that Mr. Sheiowitz is a lawyer in good standing. But courthouse regulars also understand why Mr. Sheiowitz was treated so generously. He is the treasurer of the Bronx Democratic Party. That fact may also help explain why judges in the Bronx have awarded his daughter more than $50,000 in court work, even though she is not a lawyer.

Something rotten in the Bronx? Details here from The New York Times.

Hearing For Soldier Accused in Attack on Fellow Troops

A deadly grenade attack on troops sleeping in their tents in Kuwait is all the more jarring for survivors and relatives because of the man accused: a fellow U.S. soldier.

An Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, begins Monday for Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is charged with killing two officers and injuring 14 others in the March 23 attack.

CNN/The AP have all the details here.

EEOC Seeks Key Testimony in Sidley Austin Age Discrimination Suit

Sidley Austin Logo

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has moved to compel testimony about recent conversations between Sidley Austin partners and a former financial director who signed a 1999 letter stating that the firm had a mandatory retirement policy.

Sidley has denied having such a policy in the face of an EEOC suit claiming the Chicago-based law firm discriminated against 31 partners on the basis of age when it demoted them to counsel in 1999. The EEOC has claimed the financial director’s letter “flatly contradicts” the firm’s position.

The letter, dated Oct. 21, 1999, and addressed to the Social Security Administration in Chicago, states that “it is the general policy of Sidley & Austin not to permit a partner of the firm to continue as a partner commencing the first of the year following the year age 65 is reached.” The letter is signed by William B. White, financial director.

According to the EEOC motion filed last Tuesday in Chicago federal court, White testified at a July 26 deposition that he believed the letter to be an accurate statement of the firm’s retirement policy at the time he signed it. But he also testified that, after conversations earlier this year with Sidley partners William F. Conlon and Theodore N. Miller, he realized the letter did not accurately state firm policy.

Sounds like lawyer-speak to me. Details here from the New York Law Journal via

A Smaller Legal World

Texas lawyer Michael Gorton says he’s “fairly opposed” to sending work overseas. For patriotic reasons, he believes work should be done close to home, with talent bred in the United States. Whenever practical, he says, he favors doing business with friends.

But when it comes to running Dallas-based TelaDoc, the telemedicine company of which he’s CEO, Gorton says he’s happy to outsource legal help to India.

Gorton’s first foray into the world of international outsourcing happened about a year and a half ago. Gorton says he hired his primary law firm (which he wishes to keep anonymous) to conduct research on legal issues in half a dozen states. The firm’s fee came to nearly $250,000.

So Gorton approached an outsourcing company he had read about in Texas Lawyer, a sister publication of the Daily Report. Atlas Legal Research promised its Indian lawyers could complete the same work at a fraction of the cost.

U.S. Ignored Warnings Over Informant

Dick Cheney

The Iraqi informant’s German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was ‘not proven,’ and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.

BERLIN — The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein’s suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush Administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the Iraq war.

Five senior officials from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector codenamed Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball’s information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L.Powell also misstated Curveball’s claims in his pre-war presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Details here from the Los Angeles Times.

Hey, Dick Cheney — Are the L.A. Times and the BND now “dishonest and reprehensible” too? Or is it you whose lies kill thousands?

New Orleans Cops Ordered to Stop Looters

From the AP via the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mayor Ray Nagin ordered 1,500 police officers to leave their search-and-rescue mission Wednesday night and return to the streets to stop looting that has turned increasingly hostile as the city plunges deeper into chaos.

“They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we’re going to stop it right now,” Nagin said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The number of officers called off the search-and-rescue mission amounts to virtually the entire police force in New Orleans.

It gets worse: