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Ethics Committee’s Outside Attorney Now at His Own Firm

The outside attorney brought in to pick up the House Ethics Committee’s botched investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has left the law firm contracted by the committee and opened his own shop.

Trial attorney Billy Martin has left Dorsey & Whitney after less than a year to open Martin & Gitner with litigator Geoffrey Gitner. The two hung their shingle sometime earlier this year, the two firms confirmed.

It is unclear whether Martin’s move will in any way affect his work on the Waters case, given that the contract allows Dorsey & Whitney to subcontract so long as it gets the prior consent of the committee.

A Dorsey & Whitney spokesman confirmed that both the firm and Martin will continue working on the Waters matter, and although Martin “is the point person” they will “each have a portion of the work.”

Martin, through an intermediary, said House rules “do not permit him or his firm to discuss the matter relating to the House Ethics Committee” and referred all questions back to the committee, which declined to comment on the matter.

The Ethics Committee signed a contract with Dorsey & Whitney in July that was worth up to $500,000. Martin initially had until Jan. 2 to prepare a report about the panel’s conduct during its probe into whether Waters and her staff arranged meetings with Treasury Department officials on behalf of a bank in which her husband had a financial interest. In December, the contract was extended, giving Martin until July 31 to deliver his findings.

Pressure has been building on the committee to resolve the Waters matter since its investigation was derailed in November 2010 just days before a rare public ethics trial was slated to begin.

Internal committee e-mails leaked to the media showed that the committee’s former staff director worried the probe had been compromised by political infighting among members of the committee. Martin, a former federal prosecutor who in private practice has played a role in high-profile political cases such as those of Monica Lewinsky and murdered intern Chandra Levy, was brought on to first decide whether misconduct had occurred within the committee before recommending whether it could continue building its case against Waters.

Though the status of Martin’s investigation is unknown, a glimpse into his work was revealed last month when the committee announced that six of its members had voluntarily recused themselves from the Waters matter and six alternates had been appointed in their place at his recommendation. At that time, the committee also stated that Martin had reviewed “tens of thousands of pages” of documents and interviewed current and former committee members and staffers, but that one subpoenaed witness who refused to testify was holding up Martin’s review.

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