From international human rights and reproductive rights to cryptocurrency, the environment and beyond, this podcast explores the legal and policy challenges capturing the public interest. WilmerHale law firm Partners John Walsh, former Colorado United States Attorney, and Felicia Ellsworth, Vice Chair of the firm's Litigation Department, provide a front-row seat to the events making headlines. In each episode, they pass the mic to those with unique perspectives on the most challenging issues of the day.
A Very Merry Trademark Battle
In 2021, Mariah Carey’s company Lotion LLC applied to register the trademark “Queen of Christmas” for future use on a vast range of products, including music, perfume, sunglasses and coconut milk. Elizabeth Chan, a singer and songwriter who exclusively writes and sings holiday music, filed an opposition to block Carey’s registration in August 2022. Chan herself had been dubbed the “Queen of Christmas” by the media in 2014 and has embraced and used the title ever since, including publishing a “Queen of Christmas” album.
In this episode, co-host and Partner Felicia Ellsworth is joined by Chan, along with fellow Partner Louis Tompros and former Associate Hailey Cherepon to discuss their experience working with Chan on her successful opposition to Carey’s attempted trademark registration. Tompros is an intellectual property litigator who has handled some of the most challenging patent, trademark and copyright matters for high-profile clients in technology, manufacturing and entertainment. Along with Tompros and Cherepon, the WilmerHale team who represented Chan included Partners Kevin Prussia and John Hobgood.
Chan shares the story of her journey to becoming a full-time Christmas songwriter and singer. Later in the episode, Tompros breaks down the intricacies of opposing a trademark registration and how WilmerHale helped Chan clear the path for herself—but more importantly, for others—to freely use the title “Queen of Christmas.”
Reproductive Rights in the Post-Dobbs Era
In June 2022, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, reversing Roe v. Wade and holding that the US constitution no longer includes a right to abortion. The Court’s decision left states with full authority to regulate – or eliminate -- abortion access. In Season Two of In the Public Interest, WilmerHale Partner Kim Parker spoke with Helene Krasnoff, Vice President of Public Policy, Litigation and Law at Planned Parenthood, to preview the potential outcomes in Dobbs and their potential impact on reproductive rights in the United States. Parker is vice chair of the firm’s Litigation and Controversy Department and has represented Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers in a number of legal challenges. She also serves as co-chair of WilmerHale’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee.
In this follow-up episode, In the Public Interest welcomes back Parker and Krasnoff, along with Dr. Kristina Tocce from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, to revisit the status of reproductive rights in the US, post-Dobbs. Parker, Krasnoff and Dr. Tocce discuss the legislation and litigation across the US that has resulted from the Court’s decision in Dobbs, including so-called “trigger bans” in place in a number of states. Krasnoff and Dr. Tocce share their perspectives on the burdens placed on patients seeking abortion care in states where abortion is now banned and how these burdens also impact other patients who live in states where abortion access is protected. And they discuss how a federal abortion ban, if enacted, would impact abortion access in the US.
Justice Overdue: Reinvestigating the Murder of Malcolm X
In late February of 1965, Malcolm X was murdered at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York. In the days after the famous civil rights leader’s assassination, three men were arrested and charged with his murder. All three men were later convicted on those charges, despite testimony that two of those men, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, were innocent. In the years since, Aziz and Islam steadfastly maintained their innocence, and in 2020, The Innocence Project took up their case. Nearly five decades later, Aziz and Islam were exonerated in November 2021, after The Innocence Project successfully urged Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. to reinvestigate the case.
In this episode, In the Public Interest co-host John Walsh invites WilmerHale Partner April Williams to share the story of her involvement in The Innocence Project’s efforts to exonerate Aziz and Islam. Williams focuses her practice on complex civil and criminal litigation and maintains an active pro bono practice, including her work with a team of WilmerHale lawyers supporting The Innocence Project on this case. Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at The Innocence Project, joins Walsh and Williams for an in-depth discussion of The Innocence Project’s work to exonerate the two men.
Walsh, Williams and Potkin revisit the political tensions swirling around the time of Malcolm X’s murder and the specific events leading up to his assassination on the afternoon of February 21, 1965. They discuss the thorny legal issues involved in seeking to overturn a decades-old conviction and how a newly discovered evidence law in New York formed the legal grounds that ultimately led to Aziz and Islam’s official exoneration. The episode wraps up with Potkin sharing how racial disparities in the criminal justice system are also borne out in wrongful convictions, with Black individuals making up nearly half of known exonerations.
A Ukrainian Perspective on Russia-Related Sanctions
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the early months of 2022, a spate of countries, including the United States, have imposed several packages of sanctions on Russia and Russian officials. These sanctions ranged from bans on the provision of various types of professional services in Russia to prohibitions on oil imports and trading of petroleum products from Russia. In this episode, In the Public Interest co-host Felicia Ellsworth is joined by Counsel Georgia Tzifa and Mariia Shulha, a Ukraine-trained lawyer at WilmerHale, who both focus their practices primarily on international trade matters. Shulha had lived and worked in Kiev for five years until she was forced to leave her home and resettle in Brussels after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Ellsworth, Tzifa and Shulha discuss WilmerHale’s work advising clients on sanctions compliance. They talk through the scope of the sanctions imposed by Western countries following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the differences between these recent sanctions and previous sanctions levied in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Shulha also shares about her background as a lawyer who cut her teeth in international trade law through government service and how her experience living through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has informed her private practice at WilmerHale.
Leaders in Law: Preet Bharara
In the Public Interest is pleased to welcome Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and current partner at WilmerHale. Bharara, who joined the firm in June 2022, is also a legal analyst for CNN and host of his own podcast, “Stay Tuned with Preet.” Since joining WilmerHale, Bharara has focused his practice on investigations and criminal litigation matters.
In this episode, Bharara sits down with In the Public Interest co-host John Walsh to talk about his journey to becoming a leader in the legal profession and the experiences that shaped his unique and storied career. Bharara discusses the incident that vaulted him to the national stage and what drove his headline-making refusal to return a phone call from a newly inaugurated President Trump. Walsh and Bharara share their views on the role of lawyers in supporting our constitutional system and what it means to “do justice,” which Bharara describes as “doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.” The episode wraps up with Bharara reminiscing on the cases that most heavily influenced his enduring commitment to the pursuit of justice.
Climate-Proofing Our Infrastructure: Building Climate Resilience with the Army Corps of Engineers
Reports of climate-related disaster have made headlines across the country, from flooding in California to record-breaking heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest and all manner of extreme weather in between. These phenomena seem to be happening more frequently and more intensely as climate change continues to advance. In ways large and small, we’re all being forced to adapt to a new normal—and this episode’s guest on In the Public Interest is more familiar with these changes than most.
In this episode, co-host John Walsh welcomes Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and former partner in WilmerHale’s Denver office. During his time at WilmerHale, Connor’s practice focused on natural resources, energy development and Native American law. Before joining WilmerHale, Connor held an array of high-level positions in the Obama Administration.
Connor talks through the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program’s efforts navigating and maintaining our waterways and engaging in flood risk reduction. He shares about the program’s important role on the front lines of the federal government’s response to climate change. Walsh and Connor also discuss how we can prepare the country’s infrastructure for our uncertain climate future and how the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program is working to build “climate resilience” into the next generation of American infrastructure.
In The Public Interest Podcast
Fantastic! Insightful and informative. Extremely well presented. The listener will learn something not known before (even if the issue/case being discussed is known)
Incredible podcast! It’s a do not miss — I can’t wait for the next one!
Washington Post Journalist Jason Rezaian on his Iranian Imprisonment
Amazing podcast! Thank you Wilmerhale!