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The Appellate Hot List: Judges Paid Kirkland & Ellis the Sincerest Form of Respect

From the U.S. Supreme Court to federal circuit courts across the country, Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis has been racking up major victories. Members of the appellate practice of about a dozen lawyers landed those wins for parties that included investment banks, generic pharmaceutical companies and federal judges.

In Credit Suisse v. Simmonds, Kirkland, representing Morgan Stanley and other investment banks, persuaded the Supreme Court that a two-year period for filing insider-trading suits concerning short-swing trading activity isn't tolled until the insider-defendants submit a disclosure statement outlining ownership-interest changes. Partner Christopher Landau, who led the briefing and arguing of the case for the investment banks, said the Court's 8-0 decision in March has made it more difficult for plaintiffs to bring the suits years after the complained-of activity. The case emerged from insider-trading suits brought against investment banks that had underwritten initial public offerings in the late 1990s and 2000.

On behalf of generic drug companies in Pliva Inc. v. Mensing, Kirkland also prevailed in the Supreme Court. The justices held last year in a 5-4 decision that pharmaceutical users can't file state tort suits against generic drug makers for poor warning labels. Dozens of suits against generic pharmaceutical manufacturers reportedly have been thrown out since. "It's turned out to have transformed the whole drug industry," said New York Kirkland partner Jay Lefkowitz, who argued the case.

Louis Bograd of the Center for Constitutional Litigation in Washington, who opposed Kirkland in that case, said that Lefkowitz wrote a letter telling the Court about a mistake he made in a brief. "I thought it spoke well of the firm," Bograd said.

Six federal judges have paid Kirkland the most sincere form of respect: They hired it. Kirkland represents federal judges Peter Beer, U.W. Clemon, Terry Hatter Jr., Richard Paez, Laurence Silberman and A. Wallace Tashima in Beer v. U.S. The judges are contesting laws Congress passed to deny them cost-of-living increases in their salaries. In June 2011, the Supreme Court returned the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which originally affirmed a lower court's dismissal of the suit.

"I think it is a nice thing when the judges hire you to be their appellate lawyer," said Landau, who is the lead lawyer on the case. "It gives you a lot of satisfaction."