Good morning. More law firms are launching practices aimed at managing challenges to client diversity programs, but law firms aren’t immune to pushback against their own DEI efforts. Plus, Winston & Strawn gets a new chairman after 17 years, and a California law banning gun marketing aimed at minors gets blocked. It’s Thursday – one more day to go!
More major U.S. law firms are touting practices focused on managing challenges to clients’ corporate diversity programs, even as law firms are fighting a backlash against their own diversity efforts, reports Andrew Goudsward.
Virginia-based McGuireWoods is the latest large U.S. law firm, after Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, to announce an initiative for clients facing legal threats around programs meant to increase diversity in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking downrace-conscious admissions policies.
Meanwhile, large law firms themselves have increasingly become a prime target of DEI critics. A group founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum sued law firmsMorrison & Foerster and Perkins Coie last month over fellowship programs aimed at increasing diversity in the legal profession
Gibson Dunn, which is defending Morrison & Forester in the case, recently modified its online description of a diversity scholarship. Morrison & Foerster has also changed its criteria for the fellowship program cited in the lawsuit.
Winston & Strawn said Tom Fitzgerald will step down as chairman in June 2024 after 17 years in the role. Steve D’Amore, a Chicago-based partner who is currently global co-chair of the firm’s litigation department, will succeed Fitzgerald. (Reuters)
Womble Bond Dickinson opened an office in Denver with two former Hogan Lovells energy and natural resources partners, Scot Anderson and Ana Maria Gutiérrez. Womble is the latest large law firm to break into the Denver legal market this year, following firms including Foley Hoag and Quarles & Brady. (Reuters)
Jack Rives, who led the American Bar Association as executive director for 12 years before stepping down in February, joined online legal services company Rocket Lawyer. Rives started in a newly-created role as president of a new professional services division, where he will lead the company’s effort to obtain a license as an alternative legal business structure in Arizona. (Reuters)
A Johnson & Johnson attorney told the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee on Wednesday that outside funding of personal injury claims has turned the civil justice system into “a money play: driven, funded and distorted by legal and financial entrepreneurs.” J&J’s call for Congress to pass laws regulating litigation finance got backing from some prominent business groups. But after listening to a three-hour House hearing in which Democrats were more interested in U.S. Supreme Court ethics than rescuing corporations besieged by plaintiffs’ lawsuits, Alison Frankel is skeptical that Congress will do anything.
The Democratic-led U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to vote on several of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, including Jerry Edwards Jr for the Western District of Louisiana, Jennifer Hall for the District of Delaware and Karoline Mehalchick for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Hall and Mehalchick are currently federal magistrate judges, while Edwards is a longtime prosecutor. If approved, Edwards would be the first person of color to serve on the bench in the Western District of Louisiana, according to the White House. The committee will also vote on Biden’s selection of April Perry, senior counsel at GE HealthCare, to be U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
The Iowa Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments in state legislators’ appeal of a district court order directing them to turn over their communications with third parties about a pair of Iowa election laws. The legislators are arguing that the court’s order breached the separation of powers. The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, represented by Elias Law Group, are challenging the election laws and won the court order for the legislators’ communications. The Republican National Committeefiled a brief in support of the legislators, saying a judicial proceeding can’t interfere with lawmakers’ legislative duties.
A 9th Circuit panel, sitting in Seattle, is hearing arguments in a series of cases over COVID-19 vaccination and masking policies. The cases ask the court to revive a lawsuit over the vaccination requirement for some Oregon state employees; a lawsuit challenging a vaccination requirement for Los Angeles Unified School District employees; and a lawsuit brought by Washington state employees seeking a religious or medical exemption from the state’s vaccination requirement.
Court calendars are subject to last-minute docket changes.
In the courts
The 9th Circuitblocked a California law banning gun marketing that is attractive to minors, saying it was unlikely to reduce gun violence or the unlawful use of firearms. The court said hunting and sport shooting groups were likely to prevail on claims that the law violates their free-speech rights under the First Amendment, and blocked it pending the outcome of the case. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the measure into law last year (Reuters)
9th Circuit judges questioned a judge-imposed 2-1/2-year pause in a shareholder lawsuit against PG&E officers and directors, suggesting they could allow the case over statements about the utility’s wildfire prevention measures to go forward. The judges seemed puzzled that the lawsuit, brought after the company’s long-neglected electrical grid ignited wildfires in California that killed more than 100 people, has been on hold while individual shareholder claims filed as part of the bankruptcy are adjudicated. (Reuters)
The EEOC sued Walmart in Arkansas federal court over allegations it fired hourly workers with disabilities who could not pass a computer-based test that the company started administering nationwide in 2015. The agency said the test had no connection to workers’ job duties and Walmart failed to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities. A Walmart spokesperson said the testing program was discontinued several years ago and workers were presented with pop-up notifications advising them of accommodations when it was in use. (Reuters)
The creator of the popular Stoner Cats animated web series will pay a $1 million civil fine to settle SEC charges that it conducted an unregistered offering of crypto asset securities by selling NFTs. Stoner Cats 2 LLC did not admit or deny wrongdoing in settling charges it illegally raised $8.2 million in July 2021 by selling 10,320 NFTs for about $800 each, which sold out in 35 minutes. (Reuters)
The 9th Circuit ordered a San Jose, California, public school district to reinstate a Christian student group, which the district said discriminated against LGBTQ students with its restrictions on who could serve as club leaders. The court in a 9-2 vote ruled that the district likely violated the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment by revoking its status as an official high school student club. Lawyers for the club and the district did not immediately comment. (Reuters)
Duane Morris hired partner Jacqueline Brooks as chair of the firm’s corporate practice REIT division, based in Baltimore. Brooks previously was at Saul Ewing. (Duane Morris)
Mayer Brown brought on Allison Lee as a corporate and securities partner in Hong Kong. Lee arrives from Debevoise. (Mayer Brown)
Norton Rose Fulbright picked up intellectual property partner Alesha Dominique in Los Angeles. She most recently was at Stroock (Norton Rose Fulbright
ArentFox Schiff hired San Francisco-based partner Jena Watson for its real estate and municipal bond practices. She arrives from HomeStreet Bank. (ArentFox Schiff)
Squire Patton Boggs added Marty Mackowski to its competition and antitrust practice in Washington, D.C. He joins as a partner from Meta. (Squire Patton Boggs)
Brown Rudnick hired New York-based partner Kevin Brown, who advises on executive compensation and employee benefits, for its tax practice. He arrives from Davis Polk. (Brown Rudnick)