Legal Briefing: Justice Department May Sue to Overturn Arizona Immigration Law

A daily look at legal news and the business of law...

DOJ's Suit Over Arizona Immigration Law Will Annoy All Sides

The Washington Post reports that the Department of Justice may file suit over Arizona's controversial immigration law Tuesday. If the lawsuit is crafted as the Post reports, it is sure to frustrate everyone in the immigration debate, because it avoids the merits of the Arizona law -- or the lack of them -- and focuses instead on Arizona's authority -- or rather, its lack of authority -- to enact it. The law's advocates and opponents would thus lose the opportunity to have the court rule on the civil liberty aspects of the law. In addition, if the Justice Department wins, it will only highlight how powerless states are to deal with an issue the federal government seems incapable of confronting.

In fact, long before the courts can rule on this Arizona law, that basic question -- how much can states do in the immigration area -- may be decided by the Supreme Court in a case involving a different Arizona immigration law. If the states are as powerless to act as the Justice Department contends, Congress and the Obama administration had better figure out how to get immigration reform done, and soon -- or better yet, fix the economy, because 10% unemployment plus a large population of illegal immigrants is a volatile mix.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement

A trio of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions happened recently: Technip SA, a French oil services company, agreed to pay $340 million to settle criminal and civil charges; Smith & Wesson announced it was being investigated; as did Johnson & Johnson. (JNJ)

The Technip case is completed, so plenty of details have emerged about the company bribing the Nigerian government. Working with Kellogg Brown & Root and two other joint venture partners, Technip (TKPPY) apparently paid over $180 million bribes for a decade to win $6 billion in contracts, handing over cash-filled briefcases.

The other two investigations are ongoing, so there's little on record about them as yet. But a Smith & Wesson (SWHC) executive was part of a 22-person FCPA sting in January, in which the Justice Department went after people who thought they were bribing a foreign leader to win weapons contracts. This investigation seems to be an offshoot of that. The Johnson & Johnson investigation involves whether the company's Chinese subsidiary bribed a deputy at China's version of the FDA.

Old West Lawmen's Duels: These Days, They Happen in Court

The Wall Street Journal reports on the feud between the sheriff of Nye, Nevada, and the Nye district attorney that 150 years ago might have been settled with pistols. Instead, the sheriff arrested the DA and the DA has filed charges against the sheriff. Since everyone in the area's legal establishment is part of one or the other's posse, the Nevada Supreme Court has had to ship in a neutral judge from several hundred miles away to handle the case.

And in the Business of Law...

• The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the legal profession lost 3,900 jobs in June, and adjusted its May number to 600 jobs lost, down from a preliminary 300 gained, reports the AmLaw Daily. So much for green shoots, signs of recovery, etc.

• Nonetheless the market for contract attorneys is getting stronger, according to the Legal Intelligencer. The massive layoffs at big firms over the past couple of years have created a deep talent pool that can be tapped far more cheaply in the form of contract attorneys than as employees. Both in-house counsels and firms are hiring more contract attorneys than ever.

• To access the Chinese legal market, Wall Street lawyers must take the Hong Kong bar exam, and the number of those doing so is rising sharply, reports Bloomberg.