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US press highlights Manatt saga

Published:Friday | April 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The continuing saga involving the Government of Jamaica and the American law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips has attracted the attention of one of the most respected legal publications in the United States (US).

The Am Law Daily, on Wednesday, published an article titled - 'Lobbying pact puts Manatt at centre of Jamaican political storm'. It chronicled the details of the controversy that has captured the attention of the nation since last month.

The report notes the filings to the US Department of Justice, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), by Manatt in which it purports to represent the Government of Jamaica.

"None of Manatt's Jamaican FARA filings refer explicitly to the (Christopher 'Dudus') Coke case — or any other specific matter," the report notes.

"What the documents show is a relationship that began within a month of Coke's indictment, resulted in Manatt attorneys having five separate contacts with US officials on unspecified 'treaty issues,' and ended about a month before Golding's political enemies started to make an issue of the arrangement."

Manatt mum

Efforts by the Am Law Daily to get a comment from officials of Manatt were no more successful than The Gleaner's.

"The three Manatt partners identified in the FARA filings as playing a role in the Jamaican lobbying effort - Manatt, Schmidt, and litigation partner Kevin DiGregory - either declined to comment or did not return calls when contacted by the Am Law Daily.

"The firm's managing partner and CEO William Quicksilver also did not respond to a request for comment. Manatt spokesman Lawrence Martinez offered the following statement: "Client confidentiality is of utmost importance to the firm. We will not discuss our relationship with our client."

Am Law Daily said the US State Department refused to comment directly on the Coke case or to say if meetings had been held with officials of Manatt on behalf of Jamaica.

But the article quotes a former chief of the narcotics unit at the US Attorney Office in Manhattan as saying it would be unusual for a law firm to represent a country in an extradition affair.

"I've never heard of a foreign firm being hired by a private government to fight a US extradition," the report quoted Marc Mukasey, head of Bracewell & Giuliani's white-collar and criminal defence practice.

According to the Am Law Daily report: "This is not the first time Manatt has represented the Jamaican Government. Indeed, the firm's first FARA filing on record, from 1985, was on behalf of the country.

"Other countries the firm has lobbied for over the years include Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ukraine, and the Dominican Republic.

Efforts by The Gleaner to contact Mukasey have so far been unsuccessful.

"I've never heard of a foreign firm being hired by a private government to fight a US extradition."