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Benched

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Underneath Their Robes was the hottest, most irreverent blog about the federal judiciary. Anonymous author "Article III Groupie" -- named for the constitutional section establishing the federal judiciary -- or A3G, as she called herself on the Web site, wrote about "superhotties of the federal judiciary" and "Bodacious Babes of the Bench," admiring Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. 's "adorable dimple in his chin," slamming White House counsel Harriet Miers 's hairstyle and calling Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. 's son "a hottie."

A3G's blog attracted fans such as heavyweight federal appellate Judge Richard A. Posner , who told the New Yorker's legal affairs writer Jeffrey Toobin , "I enjoy the site. . . . It's occasionally a little vulgar, but this is America in 2005." A3G wrote that she "toiled in obscurity" for a major New York law firm.

Alas. A3G turned out to be a 30-year-old federal prosecutor in Newark named David Lat , Toobin reported in an article Monday. "I only hope that the judges I appear in front of don't read" the blog, Lat told Toobin.

Monday morning, A3G issued a critique of the New Yorker article, with "final comments" noting that "the views expressed in this blog are exclusively those of A3G, and no one else; and (2) Dave Lat is a very interesting individual, and he has asked A3G to mention that he would be happy to entertain further media inquiries." Maybe not all that happy. We're still awaiting a return call.

"Lat would be delighted to write op-eds on . . . the federal judiciary, to offer radio or television commentary . . . to cater your next special event, and to entertain at children's birthday parties," he wrote on the blog.

Those may well be the final comments on the blog. By late Monday, the Web site was down, we were told.

Surprisingly enough, word is the decision to take down the site was "mutually agreed upon" very quickly by Lat and his superiors. That Lat was A3G "came as a considerable surprise . . . to just about everybody," a source said.

Lat, considered a very bright lawyer, was said to be "still very much gainfully employed" at the U.S. attorney's office as of yesterday afternoon.

NEPA on Breakfast Menu

The wrap-up hearing of the House Task Force on Improving the National Environmental Policy Act is Thursday. The task force is chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-Wash.) a freshman representative appointed in April by House Resources Committee chairman Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.).

The hearing, featuring James L. Connaughton , head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a representative of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and some enviros, is likely to be crowded. It's also likely to be boring.

But if you want to find out what's really going to happen to NEPA -- and get a free meal -- we suggest you attend a breakfast briefing by McMorris just before the hearing. It's sponsored by David N. Parker of the American Gas Association, Red Cavaney of the American Petroleum Institute, Tom Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute, Frank L. "Skip" Bowman of the Nuclear Energy Institute and former senator John B. Breaux (D-La.), now a senior counsel at Patton Boggs.

McMorris is on tap to talk about "what the task force has learned" and "how NEPA can be improved" and "anticipated legislative efforts to amend the statute."

"Join us," the invite says, "to learn how changes . . . can streamline NEPA procedures and focus resources on environmental protection rather than litigation and paperwork."

After all, who better to focus on environmental protection?

High Noon for Angry Enviros

Speaking of the environment, it's payback time again for enviros itching for just one clean shot at their arch-nemesis, Undersecretary of Agriculture and former timber industry lobbyist Mark E. Rey , as part of a fundraising effort for the Combined Federal Campaign.

But this time, there'll be no dunking pool at the Whitten Patio at the Department of Agriculture's headquarters. Last time, too much water was splashed around, soaking the floor and apparently shorting out some electrical fixture.

So it's a pie in the face this year. One throw for $3, two for $5. Or, to really show Rey how you feel, enviros -- several groups said they were coming -- can just walk up and plaster him. (A $20 donation for that.) These will be whipped cream pies, a department source said, which are "environmentally safer" than the chemical-laden shaving cream ones.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns does the honors at 10:05 tomorrow with a blast at his chief of staff Dale W. Moore . Deputy secretary Chuck Connor gets his at 11:30, and Rey's the target at noon.

Correction

Those unfortunate ruminations on race by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) noted in Monday's column -- and not to be repeated here -- were made in an interview with Fox News's Tony Snow , not Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press."

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