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April 27 — Cooper & Kirk partner Pete Patterson's career took off with a mysterious phone call from Washington in 2007.
“My wife picked up the phone—and I think the caller ID said ‘Washington D.C. xxxxx'—and she turned to me and said ‘It's the White House calling!' ” Patterson said.
At 37, Patterson has been involved in headline-grabbing cases and political decisions that many attorneys only dream about.
Many young lawyers spend their first months, and even years, at law firms grinding through document reviews. But Patterson's first months at Cooper & Kirk were spent getting trial experience in one of the most high-profile cases in the nation at the time, the California same-sex marriage case, Hollingsworth v. Perry.
Hard work and the right circumstances have contributed to his success, the Cincinnati native told Bloomberg BNA.
While at Stanford Law School, Patterson was accepted to participate in the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic for one semester.
He credits his “great mentors,” Professors and Supreme Court advocates Pamela S. Karlan and Jeffrey L. Fisher, with teaching him a lot and providing him with “just a great experience.”
After graduating from Stanford, Patterson was clerking for Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit when he received the mysterious call in 2007.
Michael Scudder—a former colleague of Sutton who was working at the White House as associate counsel to President George W. Bush—told Patterson that the White House's Office of General Counsel was adding positions and invited him to interview.
Patterson flew to D.C. for the interview, was offered the job of Deputy Associate Counsel almost immediately and began work two weeks later.
“I feel like I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.
From the White House, Patterson would go on to work at Cooper & Kirk on high-profile cases including Hollingsworth, the Duke Lacrosse case and several Second Amendment cases, including Friedman v. City of Highland Park.
Patterson says that his work with the U.S. Department of Justice in several cases while serving as counsel to the White House, as well as investigations work at the White House—similar to discovery—helped prepare him for his current job at Cooper & Kirk.
Patterson's first position at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was akin to “in-house counsel” to the White House, Patterson said. “We would advise the president on things.”
He primarily assisted with congressional investigations and fulfilled document requests. The subject matter was interesting, “but it wasn't the most exciting work,” he admits.
“One of the most interesting things I worked on was the selection and appointment of Michael B. Mukasey for the position of attorney general,” he said.
This involved researching the potential candidates for the position and then helping Mukasey get ready for the confirmation process by participating in mock hearings.
After being promoted to associate counsel, Patterson attended daily briefings in the West Wing with then-White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding.
His responsibilities included oversight of the procedural aspects of the executive order process, which included making sure the orders met the established standards.
“And obviously, the job had a lot of fringe benefits,” Patterson said, such as invitations to the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll and Christmas party.
Patterson also took part in national security work, assisting Scudder, then general counsel to the National Security Council.
After the administration change in 2009, Patterson received offers from several firms in D.C. and Cincinnati.
He chose Cooper & Kirk “for a variety of reasons, including the flexibility to work primarily from Cincinnati, the nature of the firm’s practice, and the people I would have an opportunity to work with,” he said.
Cooper & Kirk is a boutique Washington trial and appellate litigation firm “specializing in commercial, regulatory, and constitutional disputes in both federal and state courts,” according to the firm's website.
Patterson began working as an associate at the firm and was immediately thrown into a case with a national impact: Hollingsworth, also known as the “Proposition 8” case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, 82 U.S.L.W. 17, 2013 BL 169619 (U.S. 2013)(82 U.S.L.W. 17, 7/2/13).
The case revolved around the California ballot initiative Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. It made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided the case on a technical issue, holding that the ballot sponsors, represented by Cooper & Kirk, didn't have Article III standing.
The Court's ruling effectively allowed same-sex marriages in the state.
During the trial phase, Patterson prepared witnesses for discovery, was involved in strategy and even defended two depositions taken by David Boies, “which was an interesting experience for a young lawyer,” Patterson said.
The trial took place in San Francisco, where Patterson spent three weeks. He cross-examined a witness in court, not something many associates experience during their first months on the job.
Patterson's trial-court work has been invaluable experience for appellate work, which he's always been interested in.
“You get to learn a lot by taking a case from the beginning,” he said.
At Cooper & Kirk, “we tend to take things from the filing of the complaint all the way to the Supreme Court if it needs to go that far,” Patterson said.
“Working at a small firm you get a lot of experience by virtue of necessity,” Patterson said.
This experience includes Second Amendment cases. Cooper & Kirk represents the National Rifle Association and has represented clients challenging carry bans and assault weapons bans, among others.
The firm has been involved in several cases challenging Illinois's and Chicago's strict gun laws, Patterson said.
The city didn't allow gun sales; to get a permit for a gun, you needed range training but range training was banned in the city; and you could have a gun in your house but not in the garage or on the porch, he explained.
“They really were pushing the envelope,” Patterson said.
Cooper & Kirk challenged the sale ban, the range ban and the carry ban. The carry and sale bans were overturned as a direct result of the challenges and the range ban was struck down while their case was pending in the district court, essentially mooting it, he said.
Patterson's success in the courtroom includes a “fascinating” case involving a gold clause (Baynard v. Commonwealth Invs. Ltd., 2016 BL 102405 (S.D. Ohio 2016)).
This niche work concerns land leases from the early 20th century that were sometimes extended for as long as 99 years and were payable in gold of the weight and fineness at that time, Patterson explained.
In 1933, gold clauses were banned—meaning payment had to be made in dollars—but were reinstated by Congress in 1977.
Since 1977, many of these long-term leases that had been paid in dollars have been transferred, Patterson said. The question arises: What happens to gold clauses in existing leases from such contracts when they get transferred to another party after 1977?
Working on this case was “like being transported to another time to learn about the world of commercial leases in the early 20th century,” Patterson said.
In Baynard, the district court held that a lease transfer in 1990 was a valid novation under the 1919 lease, and it reinstated the gold clause.
Rulings in favor of the clauses' enforceability are “a vindication of private property rights and the right of private parties to contract and enforce the terms of their agreements,” Patterson, who represented the landlord in the case, said.
Patterson is now involved in another Treasury-related case that's been making headlines, Fairholme Funds, Inc. v. FHFA, D.C. Cir., No. 14-05254, argument 4/15/16, which is one of several cases now being considered together on appeal before the D.C. Circuit.
Cooper & Kirk represents Fairholme Funds, a mutual funds company that owns shares in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Fairholme filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in 2013, alleging the federal government's seizure of the mortgage companies' profits was a taking and in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
In 2015, “we filed motions to unseal several documents,” relating to the case, Patterson said.
The claims court ultimately ordered seven documents in the case to be unsealed on April 13, finding that the “request is reasonable and that defendant’s opposition is not well-founded.”
These documents revealed that the U.S. government knew in 2012 that the companies were profitable and would continue to be.
The government's justification for seizing the mortgage companies' profits, however, was to protect taxpayers from future losses.
There's a cache of about 11,000 documents that the government has asserted executive privilege over and wants to keep under seal, Patterson said.
Patterson said that they're seeking to have more documents unsealed.
“The opportunity to work on cases like this one is one of the reasons why I was interested in joining Cooper & Kirk,” he said.
“We are fighting for the rule of law, private property rights, and open and honest government.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at email@example.com
Noteworthy Cases Patterson Has Worked On
Represented sponsors of California ballot initiative, Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage. Supreme Court held that ballot sponsors didn't have Article III standing.
• Duke lacrosse team settlement
Represented 38 members of the university's 2005-2006 lacrosse team who were falsely accused of rape. Sued the school and others for fraud and negligence. Settled out of court in 2013.
The Supreme Court denied certiorari in this case where the Seventh Circuit held that a local law banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and that specifically bans some weapons, such as AR-15s and AK-47s, doesn't violate the Second Amendment. Represented the law's challengers. (2015 BL 400279 (U.S. 2015) (review denied)(84 U.S.L.W. 760, 12/8/15).
Challenges to Illinois Gun Regulations
• Shooting Range Ban: Firm challenged Chicago's range ban, which forbid training in the city. Ban was struck down by Seventh Circuit in Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684, 80 U.S.L.W. 50, 2011 BL 176773 (7th Cir. 2011), while Cooper & Kirk's case was pending at district court level.
• Carry Ban: Firm represented firearms retailers and a woman challenging Illinois's carry ban, which generally banned individuals from carrying firearms outside of their homes. Case consolidated with another resulting in ban being struck down in Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933, 2012 BL 323520 (7th Cir. 2012).
• Sale Ban: Cooper & Kirk represented firearms retailers challenging Chicago's gun sale ban, which the district court overturned in Ill. Ass'n of Firearms Retailers v. City of Chicago, 961 F. Supp. 2d 928, 2014 BL 2018 (N.D. Ill. 2014).
Noteworthy Pending Cases
Petition for certiorari was filed in February in this case where the Second Circuit held that New York’s and Connecticut’s bans on semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate citizens’ Second Amendment rights ((U.S. 2016) (filed)).
Arguments were held in April before the D.C. Circuit in this case alleging the federal government's seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's profits was a taking.
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