Steptoe & Johnson LLP got its start
representing the airline industry, as well as pipelines, railroads,
and foreign companies whose assets had been seized during World War
II. Today, the firm serves as counsel to a number of blue-chip
clients and is routinely ranked among the top firms for
international trade, insurance, tax, intellectual property, energy,
white-collar criminal defense litigation and evolving Internet law,
including "open Internet" policies, privacy, law enforcement and
In 1913, Philip Steptoe and Colonel Louis
Johnson, both graduates of the University of Virginia School of
Law, combined forces to form Steptoe & Johnson in Clarksburg,
West Virginia. The match verged on cliché: a pairing of the
introverted Steptoe with the extroverted Johnson, who had a way
with people and politics.
It was Johnson's inclination for politics that
helped pave the road for the future Steptoe & Johnson. Johnson
agreed to serve as Assistant Secretary of War in FDR's cabinet in
1937. When he was done, he stuck around the capital and established
the firm's Washington, DC presence in 1945. The Colonel didn't
waste time diving back into politics, though-he accepted a position
as Harry Truman's secretary of defense not long after setting up
shop in DC.
In 1980, the West Virginia and DC offices of
the firm split in two, creating a name confusion that persists even
today-Steptoe & Johnson LLP, which goes by Steptoe, is not to
be confused with the still-in-existence Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
in West Virginia. With offices throughout the U.S. as well as in
London, Beijing and Brussels, the former now has more than 500
attorneys-roughly 300 of whom are located in the DC office.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP is known for its
white-collar criminal defense practice, and partner Reid Weingarten
is a major player in this area. During his illustrious career, he
has represented several high-profile individuals including Enron
Corporation's chief accounting officer, Richard Causey; WorldCom
chief executive, Bernard Ebbers; Secretary of Commerce, Ronald H.
Brown; Secretary of Agriculture, Michael Espy; former Teamsters
president, Ron Carey; Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein; and film
director Roman Polanski.
Steptoe's international trade group is
similarly well-regarded. The group recently represented SKF Inc. in
a long-running anti-dumping suit and the government of China in its
first-ever case as a complainant before the World Trade
Steptoe, like many DC firms, has seen both
Beltway business people and politicos come through its doors. Among
the firm's alumni are BET's CEO Debra L. Lee, Montana Governor
Steve Bullock, and President Truman's Secretary of Defense Louis A.
Johnson. Boasting government experience, the firm's roster includes
attorneys who formerly served under the Departments of Commerce,
Defense, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development,
Interior, Justice, Labor, State, and Treasury; the Securities and
Exchange Commission; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
the FBI; the FTC; the IRS; the National Security Agency (NSA); the
US Senate Banking and Finance Committees; and the Office of the
Vice President. The firm is also home to former members of the
House and Senate to round things out.
Steptoe expanded the capabilities offered in
its Palo Alto office with the arrival of four lawyers. Joining the
firm as a partner is Laurie Edelstein, whose broad practice focuses
on commercial litigation, along with energy litigation, government
investigations and regulatory enforcement proceedings and
white-collar criminal defense. Also joining Steptoe's Palo
Alto office as of counsel are Sarah Jackel and Margaret "Meg"
Pirnie Kammerud and associate Seth Sias. Both Ms. Jackel and
Mr. Sias focus their practices on commercial litigation and
white-collar criminal defense, while Ms. Kammerud focuses her
practice on intellectual property.
Steptoe's Century City and Phoenix-based
litigation team won in federal district court decision granting
National Union's motion for summary judgment in a coverage/bad
faith action brought by Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company.
Steptoe has expanded its Chicago office and
bolstered its commercial litigation and toxic tort litigation
practices with the addition of seven partners. The group is led by
noted litigators Michael Dockterman and Robert Shuftan, who have
decades of first-chair trial experience before federal and state
courts across the country.
On February 13, a New Jersey federal judge
ruled in favor of Sandoz and other defendants, finding that a
patent for sterilizing the Asthma drug in dispute was invalid as
obvious. The case dates back several years, when AstraZeneca
filed patent infringement suits after Sandoz and other parties
filed ANDAs with the FDA to make generic versions of Pulmicort
Respules, a drug that generated $5.6 billion in sales in the United
States between 2000 and 2004.
U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb ruled the
defendants had proved that there were multiple techniques for
sterilization known in the prior art, thus rendering the patent
obvious. Steptoe partner Taras Gracey, who is based in the
firm's Chicago office, leads the Steptoe team representing Sandoz
in this case.
A New York federal court blocked Venezuela's
attempt to reverse the ex parte recognition of a $1.6 billion
arbitral award in favor of ExxonMobil. The U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the state's
petition to vacate judgment from last year that had recognized the
award in an ex parte proceeding. In October 2014, ExxonMobil
obtained the award from an International Centre for Settlement of
Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunal, the World Bank's
international arbitration court. The day after the ICSID
award, Steptoe, on behalf of ExxonMobil, converted the
multi-billion dollar award into a federal court judgment in an ex
parte proceeding in the Southern District of New York.
Venezuela then applied to vacate the judgment on the ground that
the ex parte procedure was improper. In a 50-page opinion,
the court denied the motion and adopted every critical argument
advanced by Steptoe.
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved Rich
Verma as the new United States ambassador to India, the first
Indian-American to step into that role. Mr. Verma's
nomination by President Obama was confirmed by the full Senate
during a voice vote December 9.
Mr. Verma most recently served as a senior
counselor at both Steptoe and the Albright Stonebridge Group.
His government service includes positions in the State Department
as an assistant secretary of state, in the Senate as the senior
national security advisor to the majority leader and in the House
of Representatives where he worked for the chairman of the Defense
Appropriations Committee. Mr. Verma previously practiced at
Steptoe as a partner.