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Virginia Pols’ Scandals Spell New Business for DC Law Firms

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Debra Katz, attorney for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2018. Chairman Chuck Grassley called for a “safe, comfortable and dignified” hearing on a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh as the panel opened a historic hearing that promised to shape the Supreme Court’s future and redefine the “Me Too” era.

The political scandals enveloping Virginia’s elected officials continued to intensify on Friday, with a second accusation against the state’s lieutenant governor capping a dizzying week for the state.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring have  both admitted to wearing blackface at various times throughout the 1980s, while Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is now defending himself against two women’s allegations of sexual assault. [While the Democratic trio has refused to leave office amid mounting political pressure to do so, if they all fled Richmond, state House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican, would take over Virginia’s top public office.]

Fairfax, who is also a Morrison & Foerster partner, had retained Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz’s Rakesh Kilaru in D.C. to combat the first assault allegation. Kilaru is a former associate counsel in the White House counsel’s office under President Barack Obama.

Vanessa Tyson, the Scripps College professor accusing Fairfax of sexual assault in 2004, has turned to Katz, Marshall & Banks in D.C. The Katz firm gained national attention last year for its high-profile representation of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.

On Friday, a Maryland woman, Meredith Watson, accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2000, when the two were both students at Duke University. Watson is represented by Nancy Erika Smith of Montclair, New Jersey-based Smith Mullin. Fairfax strongly denied the new allegations in a statement to The Washington Post, calling them “demonstrably false.”

Fairfax has threatened legal action in relation to the Tyson accusation, which he has strenuously denied, while Tyson’s supporters have raised more than $20,000 in two days via a GoFundMe fundraising effort spearheaded by Melissa Michelson, a Menlo College professor. A source close to Tyson’s legal team said Tyson learned of the fundraising effort after it was launched.

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