Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Patent Work Pending [Updated]

Today's Jim Petro Maalox moment. The Beacon Journal reports today on a pile of emails concerning special counsel work for the University of Akron. The University Board of Trustees voted to release the memos which otherwise fall under exceptions to Ohio's public records laws. Here's a past post if you need a reset.

The story doesn't find much that adds to the discussion, but raises a few new questions. The intriguing aspect to the story is the relocation of intellectual property work from Renner Kenner to the then-nonexistent IP department in Roetzel and Andress. The BJ has a more detailed rundown of the "in" firms and "out" firms:

According to the documents, Petro's office informed UA in January 2003 that Renner Kenner, Amer Cunningham, and the Akron law firms of Brouse McDowell and Roderick Linton were no longer authorized for new assignments.

Petro's office authorized three other firms to perform the university work: Roetzel & Andress and Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs, which have offices in Akron, and Baker & Hostetler of Cleveland. The firm of Brennan, Manna & Diamond would also get work.
So a few questions and fill-in-the-blanks points from me.

First off, the U trustees board is packed with Alex friends. Regardless of Jack Morrison recusing himself, the Board's actions is certainly consistent with his wishes.

Second, the list of firms is curious. First and foremost, the idea of finding major law firms in Akron with no ties to Arshinkoff is a fools errand. Big law firms contain ambitious Republicans. Ambitious Republicans make friends with powerful party chairs. As the day follows the night. Buckingham in particular is a heavily Republican firm. Roetzel is a little more evenly divided, but with tendrils sunk deep in each party. The "Brennan" in Brennan, Manna and Diamond is none other than uber-R benefactor and charter school entrepreneur David Brennan. This is the firm he started after splitting off from the now-unacceptable Amer Cunningham.

The story quote UA General Counsel Ted Mallo that the IP work for Akron didn't suffer for the changeover. It's not clear from the story how closely Mallo follows the work.
Presumably if Department heads weren't happy, they would have reported to him, but it would have been nice to get some clarity in the story.

The big mystery to me in all of this is the choice of Roetzel for IP work. Not only did Roetzel have no IP department at the time of the switch, there was another choice -- the Akron office of Hahn, Loeser and Parks, includes lawyers from the former IP boutique Oldham and Oldham. So why not hire Hahn, Loeser? I don't know the firm well enough to know for sure, but could it be related to the fact that Lee Fisher and Eric Fingerhut are both alumni?

The most salient question is how Roetzel and the other firms compare in donations to Petro's campaign.

Finally, if you are unconvinced about my recent jeremiad about public campaign finance, consider this. If Petro told law firms ahead of time there would be a quid pro quo, it's a bribe. If he just rewarded his benfactors, it's legal as far as anyone can tell.

UPDATE: My bad missing a paper today. The PD has a better story -- better in the sense that they apparently waded through more of the emails and printed more details. They found Mallo emails at the time saying the switch was a bad thing.