Dan Murray Appointed Trustee of Chicago Missouri & Western Railway
On this day in 1988, Dan Murray was appointed to serve as trustee in the bankruptcy of Chicago Missouri & Western Railway Company following the death of the first trustee, former Illinois Governor Richard B. Ogilvie. As trustee, Dan supervised operations of the railroad, skillfully preserving passenger rail service. In 2011, Dan received the W. Graham Claytor Award For Distinguished Service To Passenger Rail Transportation for his outstanding work as trustee.
Firm Wins Bench Trial for Chesapeake
On this day in 2013, the firm won a high-stakes bench trial for firm client Chesapeake Energy Corporation in a declaratory judgment action against Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company, which served as trustee for a $1.3 billion bond offering. The complex civil case unfolded at hyper-speed, as a mere six weeks passed from the time the complaint was filed until the start of the trial. Chesapeake sued BNY Mellon to challenge BNY Mellon’s determination that Chesapeake missed a contractual deadline to issue a notice exercising its right to redeem the $1.3 billion in notes at par. Chesapeake wanted to redeem the notes at par so that it could refinance the $1.3 billion in debt and save approximately $100 million in interest expense. The firm initiated the action in the SDNY on March 8, 2013, to obtain a declaration that a notice issued by March 15, 2013 was “timely and effective” to effect a redemption at par. The Court held that the contract in question was "clear and unambiguous" in giving Chesapeake the right to issue a notice to redeem at par up until March 15. The Court also held that even if the contract was not clear and unambiguous, extrinsic evidence demonstrated that the drafters intended for Chesapeake to have the right to give notice until March 15. The team included Partners Richard Ziegler, Stephen Ascher, Tony Barkow, Toby Knapp and Michael Ross; Associates Anne Cortina Perry and Ali Arain and Prashant Yerramalli; and about 20 other lawyers who were engaged on the matter night and day.
On Law Day: Celebrating Firm's Efforts to Ensure Defendants Have Effective Counsel
Today is Law Day, celebrating the rule of law and its significance to society. In recognition of the day, we highlight Don Verrilli's successful argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Wiggins v. Smith in March 2003. Pro bono client Kevin Wiggins had been found guilty of capital murder after a bench trial in 1989; a jury sentenced him to death. But the two public defenders did not thoroughly investigate Mr. Wiggins’ background and, therefore, Don argued, failed to tell the jury of “powerful mitigating evidence” that could have spared him that fate. In its June 2003 ruling, the Court held that the performance of Mr. Wiggins’ attorneys at sentencing violated his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel. The case reaffirmed the importance of the right to counsel in capital cases and helped to establish meaningful standards for defense counsel’s performance. Mr. Wiggins was resentenced to life in prison and ultimately sent to a state facility for mental health treatment and rehabilitation.
Firm Guides Archibald Candy Company's Bankruptcy and Sale
A team of bankruptcy lawyers led the post-bankruptcy sale of Chicago-based Archibald Candy Corporation, which included, among its assets, the Fannie May and Fanny Farmer brands of chocolates, recipes and 31 company-owned retail stores. Archibald had filed for bankruptcy in January 2004. In April 2004, Utah-based Alpine Confections Inc. completed the purchase of the brands and other assets for $38.9 million. The sale was selected as the “Transaction of the Year” by the Chicago chapter of the Turnaround Management Association. And the firm’s Bankruptcy, Workout and Corporate Reorganization Practice was honored by M&A Advisor Magazine for leading the “U.S. Middle Market Deal of the Year.”
Firm's Supreme Court Argument Strikes Death Knell for Chicago's Time-Honored Patronage System
On this day in 1976, John Tucker argued Elrod v. Burns before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involved the City of Chicago’s time-honored party patronage system that typically governed how non-civil service positions were staffed. In this case, the new Democratic sheriff had been discharging employees who were “sponsored” by appointees of the previous Republican sheriff. On June 28, 1976, the Court struck down the patronage system, ruling that the First Amendment protects state and local government employees from being fired for partisan political reasons. While dissenters complained that the 5-to-3 vote dismantled a “practice as old as the Republic,” Justice William J. Brennan wrote for the majority that “the process functions as well without the practice, perhaps even better.” The Washington Post noted the significance of the ruling, observing that “the decision struck directly at the political machine of Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, but it is expected to safeguard the jobs of thousands of public employees across the nation.”
Firm Makes Successful Argument in Supreme Court's First Foray into Internet First Amendment Issues
In recognition of “National Library Week,” we recall Bruce Ennis’ successful challenge of the Federal Communications Decency Act on behalf of the American Library Association and other clients before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Act made it a crime to provide “indecent” material to minors over what was then a fairly new medium: the Internet. In March 1997, the Court heard arguments in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union – a case the Washington Post called the Court’s “first venture into cyberspace.” Bruce argued that the Act infringed on the First Amendment rights of adults across the country. Readily available software blockers would be far more effective than the government in protecting children from adult material, he said. As for the Act’s impact on the First Amendment, he wrote in a brief that "it is hard to imagine a criminal standard that provides less guidance, or to conceive of a speech prohibition that would have a broader chilling effect.” On June 26, 1997, the Court ruled that free speech protections apply just as much to the fast-growing digital universe as to books and newspapers. The Act, wrote Justice John Paul Stevens, "threatens to torch a large segment of the Internet community."