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Just Another Day in Federal Court

judge huvelle hears abramoff, other major cases

Presiding over high-profile cases that shape the affairs of the nation is nothing new for United States District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ’75.

Recently, she has kept busy presiding over the much-publicized trial of Jack Abramoff, a former Washington lobbyist who pled guilty to felony counts of tax evasion, bribery, and fraud, the lowlight of which was a public relations scheme that defrauded casino-operating Indian tribes out of $82 million. Abramoff’s plea agreement requires that he provide evidence about kickbacks he offered to legislators, a deal that could carry significant legal and political consequences for the recipients of those gifts. Huvelle will hand down Abramoff’s sentence, which is expected to include a reduced jail term of nine-and-a-half to eleven years and require restitution of $26.7 million to the IRS and the Indian tribes he defrauded.

In late March, Huvelle accepted the guilty plea of Tony Rudy, one of Abramoff’s conspirators and former deputy chief of staff for Representative Tom Delay. Huvelle announced at the hearing that a sentence of twenty-four to thirty months in prison was standard, but that Rudy’s cooperation with federal investigators might trim his sentence.

Since her appointment to the US District Court for the District of Columbia in October 1999, Huvelle’s docket has brimmed with notable cases. In 2001, she upheld federal regulations that restricted the sale of consumers’ private information from financial institutions to third parties. Later that year, she agreed to hear evidence on the controversy surrounding the death of Vincent Foster, former deputy White House counsel under President Clinton.

Huvelle shows no signs of backing down from the workload. In February, she issued an injunction staying the executions of three Indiana men pending the outcome of a Supreme Court case in Florida addressing the constitutionality of lethal injections.

Before her appointment to the federal bench, Huvelle was an associate judge of the DC Superior Court and a partner at the firm of Williams & Connolly. Following her graduation from BC Law, she clerked for Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

—Michael Henry ’08


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