17 November 2014
The attorneys in Mayer Brown's US Supreme Court and appellate practice group believe that having a great legal mind isn't enough to win a case. Communication is crucial. "We put ourselves in the position of the judge and present our case in a way that is easy to digest and comprehend," said Charles Rothfeld, special counsel and a member of the practice group, which has about 45 attorneys.
With a 2013-2014 appellate resume that includes victories for corporations like United Airlines Inc., Google Inc. and Target Corp., its a strategy that appears to be working.
In a case that changed national lobbying policy, Rothfeld and associate Joseph Minta served as sole counsel representing six registered lobbyists excluded from serving on International Trade Advisory Committees due to a rule implemented by President Barack Obama that barred them from sitting on government advisory committees.
Filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia in 2011, the case asserted that the ban infringed on the First Amendment right to petition the government. A federal court ruled against the lobbyists in 2012, but the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed in January 2014, sending the case back to the lower court to see if the government could defend the policy.
The Obama administration has since revised the policy, so that the ban does not apply to registered lobbyists specifically appointed to represent the interests of nongovernmental entities and other enumerated groups.
The US Department of Justice declined to comment on the decision.
Another big win for the appellate group came in June in the California Supreme Court case of Verdugo v. Target. The action was brought by family members of a woman who died from cardiac arrest while shopping at a Target store. The suit alleged the company had a duty to have an automated external defibrillator available for customers.
Partner Donald Falk, assisted by former associate Richard Caldarone, argued the case in the state high court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified the question of whether state businesses had a common-law duty to make defibrillators available to patrons. The California Supreme Court decided the question should be handled through legislative resolution. A decision against Mayer Brown's client "could have potentially opened up a whole realm of lawsuits," Falk said.
Robert Roth, of counsel to Heath Law Group, one of two firms that represented the plaintiffs, called the decision "unfortunate."
Reprinted with permission from the November 17, 2014 edition of The National Law Journal © 2014 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.