When big-name lawyers become small-stakes plaintiffs

(Reuters) – Being a top-rated litigator doesn’t guarantee success when confronting the implacable wall of municipal bureaucracy.

Consider Bill Isaacson. The Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison partner is well-known for representing blue chip clients like Amazon in cases with millions or even billions of dollars on the line.

“Widely considered one of the most preeminent litigators of his generation,” is how his Paul Weiss bio puts it.

Absent from that bio is his own case against the D.C. sewage department. Isaacson is a co-plaintiff in a fight over his Washington, D.C., home’s monthly sanitary sewer bill – a scooplet via my Reuters colleague Mike Scarcella, who spotted his name in the docket. Isaacson and his wife Sophia McCrocklin have taken their case to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

I’m betting that Isaacson, who declined comment, could afford to pay the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority charges, which I estimate to be $70 a month or less (court papers don’t reveal the exact amount) for his home near Rock Creek Park in the northwest quadrant of the city. Average profits per partner at Paul Weiss last year were $5.73 million, according to The American Lawyer.

My guess is that it’s more about the principle of only paying what you think you owe — but more on that later.

The suit reminds me of an earlier unsuccessful battle by Randy Mastro — then the co-chair of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s litigation practice who last year joined King & Spalding — against the City of New York over a fine he got after his home’s fire alarm went off twice by mistake.

Mastro in 2017 failed in a three-year quest to get the fine reversed, though he did manage to get it cut

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