By Eric Kulisch
Thompson Coburn LLP said it hired Jonathan Benner as a partner to head the law firm's Maritime Regulatory and Ports Practice within its large Transportation and International Trade Group.
A former general counsel at the Federal Maritime Commission, Benner most recently worked as a partner at Reed Smith. He also helped establish multi-mode transportation practices as managing partner of Haight Gardner Poor & Havens in Washington and then as group leader of Troutman Sander's transportation practice.
Brenner's practice focuses on international and domestic maritime and shipping matters, as well as trade regulations that touch on goods movement.
Benner successfully argued the Intertanko v. Locke
case in 2000 in the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of federal preemption over states in matters involving foreign commerce. He also successfully argued the constitutional challenge to federal port regulation in the landmark case of Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority
in 2002. He also represented the interests of U.S. airlines in a Supreme Court case involving the preemption of state laws by the Warsaw Convention. In recent years, he has done extensive work involving the environment and trade sanctions.
In 2009, he was named Transportation Lawyer of the Year by the Federal Bar Association.
Benner, a Georgetown University Law Center graduate, will be based in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.
U.S. trade deficit widens, despite export gain.
The U.S. trade deficit widened again in January from December by $2.2 billion to $52.6 billion, the Department of Commerce reported Friday.
January exports grew $2.6 billion to $178.2 billion from the prior month, but imports were $4.7 billion more than December imports of $228.7 billion.
Exports of goods increased $1.9 billion to $128.6 billion, while imports of goods increased $4.3 billion to $196.1 billion, for a goods deficit of $2.4 billion. Top export categories included capital goods and automotive vehicles, parts and engines.
The deficit for goods and services compared to January 2011 grew $5 billion as export growth of 7.7 percent ($12.9 billion) was surpassed by import growth of 8.4 percent ($18 billion). Export growth reflected increases in capital goods, industrial supplies and materials, automotive and consumer goods.
Taking the Lord's name in vain
Drug smugglers are nothing if not resourceful.
Authorities at the port of entry in El Paso, Texas, recently stopped a commercial shipment of calcium carbonate granules with the words "Direct From the Hands of God - He Knows" stamped on the packaging, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The shipment crossed the border on a flatbed truck at the Ysleta commercial cargo facility. A canine team alerted officers to a potential problem. The truck was sent for a secondary x-ray exam, which detected an anomaly. Upon physical inspection, CBP officers discovered pallets of the bagged commodity had been stacked to conceal 78 large bundles of marijuana in the middle of the pallets.
CBP said no arrests were made and the investigation is continuing.
Smugglers using religious symbolism and articles of faith have become more commonplace in recent years, CBP Port Director Hector Mancha said. Inspectors have found drugs concealed in framed pictures of Jesus Christ, quinceanera plaques (celebrating a girl's 15th birthday) and in vehicles with religious-themed bumper stickers, as well as those with crosses or rosary beads hanging from the rearview mirror.