Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Blackwater Sues Own Attorneys

This could get really interesting. Blackwater has filed a legal malpractice suit against the Wiley Rein law firm, one of the real heavy hitters in Washington legal circles. Wiley Rein had represented Blackwater in a wrongful death suit filed by the families of 4 Blackwater employees:

Blackwater Security filed a $30 million malpractice suit against Wiley Rein on Wednesday, alleging that the firm made costly missteps in a wrongful death case brought on behalf of four former Blackwater employees who were killed in Iraq in 2004.

The complaint, filed in D.C. Superior Court, claims lawyers at Wiley Rein filed sloppy pleadings that ultimately barred Blackwater from shifting the case from a state court in North Carolina to federal district court, where the security firm could have mounted a stronger defense.

Take a look at who represented them and who they’re up against:

After losing its bid to have the case transferred in October 2005, Blackwater discarded its high-wattage Wiley Rein team, which included Fred Fielding, now White House counsel; Barbara Van Gelder, now an attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Scott McCaleb, who is a partner with Wiley Rein; and Margaret Ryan, who is now a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Ryan, a former judge advocate general who was confirmed to the bench December 2006, is named separately from Wiley Rein in the malpractice suit. The complaint says that she led the team.

Talk about some serious rainmakers. Fielding is now the chief white house counsel, brought in grudgingly by the Bush administration because they needed someone with credibility to clean up the mess left by Alberto Gonzalez and Harriet Miers. You file suit against Fred Fielding and you’re taking on one of the most powerful men in the DC legal establishment. I’ll say this, Blackwater has a set of cojones.

It sounds to me like they wanted it removed to Federal court so they could try and have the case dismissed on national security grounds, perhaps through invoking the state secrets privilege? That’s the only thing that makes sense from this:

Blackwater, which is under investigation by the Justice Department for its involvement in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead, contends that its contracted employees are de facto federal officers under the law.

Blackwater’s lawyer in the suit against Wiley, Barry Nace, of D.C.’s Paulson & Nace, says in the complaint that Ryan and her team, in their request to have the case transferred, failed to cite a statute that gives federal jurisdiction to claims involving federal officers. The complaint — filed on behalf of Blackwater Security and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center — two subsidiaries of Blackwater Worldwide — also alleges that Wiley lawyers ignored the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Grable & Sons Metal Products Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Manufacturing, which held that federal courts have jurisdiction over state-law claims that “implicate significant federal issues.” Nace did not return calls for comment.

“Had [Wiley Rein] adhered to these duties, the Nordham lawsuit would have been dismissed and the litigation involving plaintiffs would have ended,” Nace wrote.

That’s the only thing I can figure. If anyone has any other ideas on why they think moving the case to Federal court would have resulted in the case being dismissed, I’d like to hear them.