DC Circ. Judge Tatel To Join Hogan Lovells' Litigation Practice

By Katie Buehler | June 23, 2023, 4:16 PM EDT ·

Judge David S. Tatel
Judge David S. Tatel
After serving for 29 years, Senior D.C. Circuit Judge David S. Tatel will step down from the bench in August to join Hogan Lovells' litigation practice in Washington, where he'll focus on pro bono work.

The law firm confirmed Judge Tatel's plans Friday in a statement to Law360. Judge Tatel had worked at Hogan & Hartson — Hogan Lovells' premerger name — as a partner and founder of the firm's education practice from 1979 until he was appointed to the D.C. Circuit in 1994. He assumed senior status with the court in May 2022. 

"We are extremely happy to be welcoming Judge Tatel back to the firm after a long and illustrious career on the bench," said Des Hogan, the firm's global head of the litigation, arbitration and employment practice group. "Upon his return, Judge Tatel will join our litigation practice, and will focus on pro bono work."

Cate Stetson, co-head of the firm's appellate practice, said in a statement the firm is "thrilled" with Judge Tatel's return to the firm.

Judge Tatel said that serving on the D.C. Circuit "has been the honor of a lifetime." As for the new chapter in his career, the return to Hogan "is a true homecoming" and "I particularly look forward to mentoring junior lawyers again, and engaging in important pro bono work."

Judge Tatel, 81, who has been blind since the age of 30, began his legal career as an instructor at the University of Michigan Law School before entering private practice with the law firm now known as Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago.

While at the firm, he served on Mayor Richard J. Daley's Chicago Riot Study Committee, which was established in the summer of 1968 to investigate rumors that riots following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were organized by members of the Black Panthers. The committee interviewed Black residents, business owners and law enforcement officers and found no evidence of a conspiracy to start the riots.

In 1969, Judge Tatel left Sidley Austin to serve as founding director of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which provides legal services to litigants in civil rights cases.

He later went on to become director of the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and was instrumental in the formation of the Legal Services Corp. a government nonprofit that provides grants to organizations providing civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. Judge Tatel has also served as acting general counsel for the Legal Services Corp.

During the Carter administration, Judge Tatel joined the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the director of the department's Office of Civil Rights. He worked in government until 1979, when he reentered private practice, this time with the law firm now known as Hogan Lovells.

President Bill Clinton nominated Judge Tatel to the D.C. Circuit in June 1994 to fill the seat vacated roughly a year earlier by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He was confirmed in October 1994 by a Senate voice vote.

During his nearly 30 years on the D.C. Circuit bench, Judge Tatel has presided over several significant cases.

Recently, he wrote the circuit court's October 2019 opinion in Trump v. Mazars USA LLP,  which found that President Donald Trump's longtime accounting firm had to hand over business records to the House oversight committee investigating the president.

Judge Tatel wrote, "Contrary to the president's arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the House rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena" requesting the documents.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled in a 7-2 opinion July 2020 that lower courts hadn't adequately considered the separation of powers concerns implicated by the case. Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote for the majority, established a four-factor balancing test for future cases that raise the same issues. 

On remand, a separate three-judge panel ruled that the House oversight committee could still subpoena certain records from Trump. While the president was still entitled to a heightened separation-of-powers scrutiny, the committee's explanation of the legislative purpose behind the subpoena overcame some of the bars to its seeking Trump's records, the panel found.

The case has been cited in recent cases, such as the contempt of Congress charges against ex-Trump aides Steven Bannon and Peter Navarro, to argue whether aides to former presidents have immunity when it comes to congressional subpoenas.

Judge Tatel earned his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan.

--Editing by Karin Roberts.

Update: This story has been updated to clarify the practice Judge Tatel will be joining and to include additional comments.

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