Good morning. The U.S. Justice Department wants a federal judge to force casino mogul Steve Wynn to register as a “foreign agent” of China. His lawyers are contesting the civil lawsuit. Plus, Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first four U.S. Supreme Court law clerks include an advocate for judiciary workplace reforms. A new survey of law students shows some coming around to online classes, but in-person still wins out; Allianz’s fraud settlements with the DOJ and SEC are among the largest-ever; and New York’s top court today takes up whether a female elephant named Happy should have some of the same legal rights as humans. Happy Wednesday to all. Let’s jump in.
Our colleague Dan Brillman is co-writing The Daily Docket while Diana Novak Jones is on parental leave. Were you forwarded this email? Subscribe here.
The U.S. Justice Department is suing former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn in Washington, D.C., federal court to force him to register as an agent for China under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Rami Ayyub reports. The federal law requires lobbyists, lawyers, public relations professionals and others to publicly reveal certain influence work for foreign clients. The required disclosures can include contracts, communications and other information.
Justice Department lawyers said in their complaint that Wynn had contacted then-President Donald Trump and members of his administration in 2017 to convey China's request for a visa cancellation or other action to remove a Chinese businessperson who had sought political asylum in the United States. The department had previously advised Wynn to register as an agent of China under FARA but he declined to do so.
The civil lawsuit seeks a judge’s declaration that Wynn has an obligation to register and also an injunction that would force him to do so. Veteran trial lawyer Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson represents Wynn with partner Brian Heberlig, co-leader of the firm’s white-collar practice. Wynn’s lawyers said he has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and did not have an obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
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Two women and two men will serve as U.S. Supreme Court Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first law clerks at the high court, and the group includes a public defender who has has advocated for the judiciary to do more to prevent sexual harassment, Nate Raymond reports.
Claire Madill, who has been working in Florida as a public defender, co-founded Law Clerks for Workplace Accountability, which has pressed the judiciary to make changes to prevent workplace misconduct. Jackson is also a former public defender, and the Biden administration has sought to appoint defenders to the bench.
Two of Jackson’s other picks clerked for her previously: Kerrel Murray held the role when Jackson was a federal trial judge in Washington, D.C., and Natalie Salmanowitz clerked for her in the D.C. Circuit. Murray is an associate professor at Columbia Law School, and Salmanowitz is a law clerk at Hogan Lovells. Jackson also hired Michael Qian, an associate at Morrison & Foerster who earlier clerked for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
A new survey of law students shows that more of them are coming around to online classes, indicating that law schools improved their online offerings during the two-year pandemic even as in-person learning is still preferred. (Reuters)
Amanda Haines, the former federal prosecutor who handled the Chandra Levy murder case, is contesting a recommended 90-day suspension of her law license over claims that she withheld evidence in the prosecution of the man accused of killing the federal intern in 2001. (Reuters)
Marisa Darden of Squire Patton Boggs, confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the U.S. attorney for Cleveland, has backed out of serving in the post. She said in a statement she wanted to focus on "prioritizing family." Darden will return to private practice. (Cleveland.com)
That’s the weight in pounds for each cheese block — more than 400 of them — that Italian-Canadian artist Cosimo Cavallaro used to build a wall in 2019 near the U.S.-Mexico border. Cavallaro, represented by Munger Tolles, sued two construction companies in 2020 for allegedly bulldozing his "Cheese Wall,” which he made as a comment on then-President Donald Trump's effort to erect a barrier along the border. The artist has now settled his lawsuit against the two government contractors he accused of destroying his work. Find out what cheese Cavallaro used for his sculpture.
No, you didn’t misread that headline: After 12 years of litigation, the monoline insurer Ambac is scheduled for a bench trial in September in Manhattan state court to prove its claims that Countrywide is on the hook for more than a billion dollars because it allegedly stuffed 375,000 defective loans into mortgage-backed securities Ambac insured. But first, Alison Frankel reports, Ambac is hoping to convince a New York judge at a hearing on Wednesday to admit evidence of Countrywide’s systemic lax underwriting — and to withstand Countrywide’s contention that a new MBS decision from the state’s highest court obliterates its case.
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"The evidence will show that this is a case about privilege — the privilege of a well-connected D.C. lawyer with access to the highest levels of the FBI."
—Federal prosecutor Brittain Shaw, delivering an opening statement at trial in the false-statements case against Michael Sussmann. The former Perkins Coie partner, who had worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is charged with misleading the FBI about who he represented when he met with the bureau's top lawyer in 2016 to provide a tip alleging communications between Trump's business and a Russian bank. A lawyer for Sussmann, Latham partner Michael Bosworth, told jurors, "Mr. Sussmann did not go to the FBI to do the Clinton campaign's bidding. This meeting was the opposite of what they wanted. No one told him to go. No one authorized him to go.” Our colleague Sarah N. Lynch has more from the trial.
New York's highest court will consider whether an elephant can be treated under the law as a "person" with rights belonging to human beings. The Nonhuman Rights Project sued on behalf of an elephant named "Happy" to transfer her from the Bronx Zoo to a 2,300-acre animal sanctuary. The rights project, represented by Mary Miller of Novato, California, contends the law on unlawful confinement does not define "person." The plaintiff submitted statements from experts saying elephants share certain cognitive abilities with humans. An appeals court said state lawmakers were better suited to address whether and how to incorporate "other species into legal constructs designed for humans." Our colleague Luc Cohen previews the case here.
Johnny Depp's defamation trial in Virginia state court resumes, as the actor's lawyers question his former wife Amber Heard over her relationship with him. Depp is suing Heard, also an actor, saying she defamed him when she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse. Heard has countersued Depp, arguing that Depp smeared her by calling her a liar. Catch up on key moments from the trial.
The 10th Circuit will take up the scope of First Amendment protections for bystanders who record police officers. The court will hear an appeal by Abade Irizarry, a self-described YouTube journalist and blogger, who is seeking to reinstate a lawsuit he filed against a Colorado officer who he says blocked him from recording a traffic stop. The lower court concluded that it was not “clearly established” law in 2019 that individuals have a constitutional right to film police officers in public space. Irizarry is represented by lawyers from Arnold & Porter. The U.S. Justice Department, as a friend of the court, said “recordings can provide transparency that helps foster community trust in law enforcement more generally.”
Court calendars are subject to last-minute docket changes.
A Michigan judge granted a temporary injunction to block the enforcement of a state abortion ban that might have taken effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade precedent that legalized abortion nationwide. (Reuters)
Allianz’s $6 billion in settlements with the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are among the largest in corporate history, and the company’s former chief investment officer, Gregoire Tournant, was indicted for fraud, conspiracy and obstruction. Tournant’s lawyers, including Seth Levine of New York’s Levine Lee, said he “has been unfairly targeted.” (Reuters)
U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor in North Dakota has blocked two federal agencies from forcing a Christian business group and its members to offer health insurance coverage to employees for gender transition procedures, saying the regulations violated their religious beliefs, causing irreparable injury. (Reuters)
Where’s the beef? A proposed class action filed in Brooklyn federal court accuses McDonald’s and Wendy’s of defrauding customers with ads that make burgers appear larger than they actually are. (Reuters)
Four freight rail carriers represented by Donald Verrilli of Munger Tolles in the D.C. Circuit won a new chance to argue for limits on what evidence plaintiffs’ lawyers can see in a long-running antitrust case in Washington, D.C. A three-judge panel in a new ruling instructed U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman to take a new look at whether certain communications between rail companies can be withheld from lawyers representing shippers. Kathleen Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel argued for the plaintiffs.
Gibson Dunn said Jessica Valenzuela joined the firm as a securities litigation partner in its Palo Alto office. She comes to the firm from Cooley. (Gibson Dunn)
Alston & Bird brought on partners J. Eric Wise and Matthew Kelsey as New York-based partners focused on financial restructuring and reorganization. They previously practiced at Gibson Dunn. (Alston & Bird)
Cadwalader added finance partner Angela Batterson in New York from Jones Day. She focuses on leveraged financing transactions. (Cadwalader)
Renée McDonald Hutchins will be the next dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Hutchins, now dean of the David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C., starts her new post on Aug. 1. (University of Maryland)
McGuireWoods added deal lawyer Jason Griffith as a Chicago-based partner on the private equity team. He comes to the firm from Benesch Friedlander. (McGuireWoods)
Cozen O’Connor said Margo Ceresney joined the firm’s Boca Raton office as a partner in its private client, trusts and estates group. She formerly practiced at Proskauer. (Cozen O’Connor)
Foley & Lardner said Tamera Westerberg joined the firm’s Denver office as a litigation partner from Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell. (Foley)
A rise in violence against health care workers is spurring a demand for federal protections, write Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck attorneys Abbye Alexander, Christopher Tellner and Talya Van Embden. Health care industry employers have long had guidelines to help detect and deter violence against employees, the authors write. Read more about prevention strategies for the industry.
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