Monday, August 22, 2005

Box 44: Pro Bono (2)

ProBono, seems like a simple thing, but I would rather call it:
For Sale: White House
It's my last Adopt a box assignment. I enjoyed this whole process though, but I must say if anyone else reads through these boxes and finds sometimes I missed, please email me or leave a comment. I would really appreciate it.

This last box has both interesting cases and nice perspectives on John Roberts. However, this mostly all took place in 1984, and with reelection looming, I'm guessing it influenced the docket though. But it didn't influence John Roberts. He presents the best legal argument in each case. Even in a case that may be politically helpful for the President, Roberts seems to agree only after the legal concerns are addressed. He's also concerned not just for technicalities of law but about things that may appear illegal even if they are not. And sometimes, he agrees that the best thing to do is not say anything - especially when someone threatens to put a lien against the sale of the White House.

But if you are interested in some more detail, then here it is:

1. New York County Lawyers Association
Memo from Roberts to Fred Fielding - 1/25/84 (p.3)
Roberts simply described a letter to the President regarding a report from the Assoc. on HR 4043. Apparently the bill was proposed to be amended by the House Committee on Science & Technology and the Association wanted to recommend additional proposals for the bill.

The bill was the Administration's "proposal to encourage joint research by reducing risk of anti-trust liability and eliminating the threat of treble damages for such ventures."
The Association agreed with the bill and was now reiterating its agreement in a report, to help promote risky and expensive research in areas vital to the national interest. Roberts wants to send a letter thanking the association for its report and advised to have it sent to justice and commerce.

There are some more memos and letters sending the same thanks and information back and forth.
Then there is the Association's letter to the President (p.8) with the attached report (pp 9- 17). But, what exactly is a risky, expensive kind of venture? The report says that with competitive research and under existing law research on such things as a better ball point pen or plastic coffee cup would proceed quite well, but that encouragement - through anti-trust and other means - is needed for such research as "space industrialization," "desalting of seawater" and "non-polluting power sources."
Ethanol anyone?

The report then goes on to recommend various specifics to the bill. Basically they want the President to define such ventures that would benefit from joint research so that the R&D community would know that they may proceed with said research. The dear was apparently that if the research firms felt that there was a chance that existing legislation would shut down their work they wouldn't even look into it or start spending the money. This recommendations therefore, were in the name of more and more research, with specific federal backing. However, I do appreciate the fact that they expect the President to consult with the technology industry, the scientific community and relevant government agencies before deciding which research goals would fall under the new guidelines.

It goes on and on and on, cause really - it wasn't written by one lawyer, but rather an entire association of them. They do quote Winston Churchill though (p.11), with which one can rarely go wrong.

They also nicely summarized (and underlined) their conclusions on p.17. I won't restate them here because...I've stated them already.

2. Farmland Industries
Memo from Roberts to Fred Fielding - 2/6/84
Someone wants their opinions on a draft letter from President Reagan to Farmland Industries ("FI"). Apparently the president of FI wrote Reagan, urging him to support "expansion of the Commodity Credit Corporation credit guarantee program" on behalf of " '500,000 farm families' ".

Wow. Could this relate to ethanol and corn in Iowa in some way too? It is 1984 after all.

Roberts closes his memo having no objection to the letter and since it is written to the president and not the company itself, there is no endorsement of FI to be considered. However, as cited in a memo dated 2/1/84 - they all had good reason to believe that this letter from the President would be printed in the FI newsletter and sent to all 500,000 letters.

Like I said. Election year, 1984. But who can blame them for talking about it amongst themselves.

The draft (pp.23-25) is written in true Ronald Reagan style, which means it is nice to read - even with all the agriculture talk. :)

Pages 26-27 display FI's original letter and the resolution agreed upon by its members.

3. Go America, Inc. (pp.28-32)
Group of documents concerning an offer from the president of this private company wanted to allow the President to use the Go America symbol throughout government and industry. Roberts memo to Fred Fielding on 2/6/84 (p.28) says accepting such an offer would be inappropriate since Go America is not a 501(c)(3) [non-profit] organization. Therefore, the President's use of the symbol would be his endorsement of the marketing of a private company.

Fielding agrees and passes that along to the Special Assistant to the President (p.29) and then we can read the Go America letter itself (pp.31-32).

Roberts was right about this one and the Democrats certainly can't accuse him of asking the President to help a "greedy corporation."

4. A Lien against the White House? (pp.33-47)
This is really bizarre and I don't even know that I understand it, but apparently Earl C. Berger believed that the administration had failed to pay some damages due because of some litigation and on August 22, 1983 Berger wrote the following to Craig Fuller
I am preparing litigation looking forward to executing and selling the White House of our President, because the Order for Remand has not been properly honored or carried out.
But I am not averse to compromise, and payments due to the teachers and to myself, as their attorney.

He's "looking forward" to selling the White House? Is he serious with this?

Apparently he was because the next letter was to Fred Fielding saying:
Letters to Mr. Fuller go unacknowledged or acted on. He ought to advise Mr. Reagan that his forthcoming campagin (sic) by functionaires, but can be avoided simply

Lastly, an unsigned letter to Mr. Futrell, president of the NEA, that contains many random spelling errors as well as the history of this grievance (p.47). Be prepared though, the scanning is particularly sketchy here.

So what happened? I don't have much of a clue except that some teachers paid some fees and then lost them and then, you know, decided that the best thing to do was to sell the White House. Good plan, that.

The catch for someone looking for one in all this insanity: The 1974 case "spawned litigation involving substantial attorneys fees in which I had some involvement at Hogan and Hartson. I suggest, therefore, that this matter be reassigned to someone else on the staff" (p.35).

However that Hogan & Hartson attorney here is not Roberts but rather one David Waller. This was years before Roberts would be with H&H. So could someone make a connection there? Maybe, if they wanted it.

But I'm still wondering, did anyone manage to sell the White House?

That's it. End of Box.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out)