Friday, April 3, 2009

Ethical Attorney Comes out on Top in Ted Stevens Case

The American Law Litigation Daily reported on April 3, 2009 that Brendan Sullivan, Jr. of Williams & Connolly is their Litigator of the Week. Alison Frankel reports:
"Every two years, when The American Lawyer conducts its Best Litigation Department contest, we talk to lots of opposing counsel--the lawyers who've appeared on the other side of cases our finalists tell us they've won. You might be surprised at what we hear. Opposing counsel occasionally have pretty nasty things to say, accusing the other side of exaggeration, misstatement, overaggression, and, sometimes, outright misconduct.

Except when Williams & Connolly is the firm on the other side. We have never heard a lawyer on the other side of a case from Williams & Connolly criticize the firm that's led by our Litigator of the Week, Brendan Sullivan, Jr. W&C has adopted Sullivan's rigorous standard of behavior, which demands that lawyers fight hard but always within the bounds of the rules of procedure. Sullivan and the other firm leaders train their lawyers to litigate honorably.

That's why Sullivan's outrage at the prosecution's missteps in the political corruption case against former Alaska senator Ted Stevens was so genuine. As we noted the last time we named him Litigator of the Week , Sullivan was deeply aggrieved by the government's lapses, and after the trial, he sent a 16-page letter to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, calling for the Justice Department to investigate its own team. "His zealous advocacy," we predicted, "may yet get Stevens off the hook."

On Wednesday, it did: Attorney General Eric Holder announced his decision to drop charges against Stevens , citing additional evidence that prosecutors hid exculpatory material from Stevens and Williams & Connolly.

Sullivan, who is notoriously reluctant to talk to reporters, didn't respond to our request for an interview. But he did send us his press release on Holder's announcement . It's unlike any other press release we've received, and it's well worth reading. Not only does Sullivan mince no words in criticizing the government, which he accuses of "stunning" misconduct, he also identifies "heroes in this story": the trial judge, Emmet Sullivan, the Justice Department lawyers who investigated the conduct of the Stevens prosecution team, and Eric Holder, whom Sullivan calls "a pillar of integrity in the legal community."

But he doesn't stop there: "[Holder] has demonstrated the kind of leadership that we defense lawyers seek and that the Department of Justice desperately needs. Ineffective leadership permits this type of prosecutorial misconduct to flourish."

The same can be said of leadership on the private side. And through his conduct in the Stevens case, Sullivan leads by example.

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