Cozen O’Connor Adds Wolf Block Attorneys

As news broke last month of Wolf Block’s dissolution, it was widely said that Cozen O’Connor would pick up the bulk of attorneys in the firm’s New York office. That rumor came true yesterday as Cozen O’Connor announced it would take 30 attorneys from Wolf Block’s midtown office. There were slightly more than 40 attorneys in the office shortly after Wolf Block partners voted to dissolve March 23. A Cozen O’Connor spokesman said he did not have details yet as to who was coming but said the office has a wide variety of practice areas. The office is headed up by Wolf Block executive committee member Abby Wenzel, who also headed the firm’s project finance and real estate structured finance groups. It is unclear whether she is part of the group joining Cozen O’Connor. The addition of the New York attorneys will add to the more than 60 lawyers Cozen O’Connor already has in Manhattan. This is not the first group of Wolf Block lawyers to make the move to Cozen O’Connor. The firm has previously said it picked up about 30 Wolf Block lawyers out of Philadelphia and Delaware, including attorneys in the real estate, trusts and estates and tax practices. - Gina Passarella

Simpson Thacher Adds Bankruptcy Partner

In a rare lateral hire, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has lured bankruptcy partner Sandeep Qusba away from White & Case. Mr. Qusba, 39, has been a sought-after asset since he became a partner at O’Melveny & Myers in January 2002; he subsequently moved to White & Case in April 2006. Mr. Qusba has experience on distressed financings on the underwriters’ side; in January 2008, he represented the lead arrangers in Calpine Corporation’s $8 billion exit financing from Chapter 11; he also represented the bank group in regional mortgage lender HomeBanc Mortgage corporation’s chapter 11 filing. Simpson Thacher chair Philip T. (Pete) Ruegger said the firm hires lateral partners “very selectively and almost always to fill a need.” The 801-lawyer firm hired Douglas Markel, a China deals veteran, from Freshfields in 2007; it brought in Tristan Brown, a top executive compensation partner, from Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in mid-2008. - Dimitra Kassenides

State Agency to Recognize Gay Marriages From Vermont

A few hours after the Vermont Legislature voted yesterday to recognize gay marriages, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the New York State and Local Retirement System will recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in Vermont. “This is a monumental step for everyone who believes in fairness and equality,” Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement. The Vermont House voted 100-49, the bare minimum needed, to override a veto of a same-sex marriage bill by Governor Jim Douglas. The Vermont Senate had earlier voted 23-5 to override. Vermont joined Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa as the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage, and is the only one so far to do so without the intervention of state courts. Mr. DiNapoli said the retirement system, of which he is sole trustee, has recognized same-sex marriages since Canada first legalized the unions in 2004. A spokeswoman for the comptroller said it is unclear how many legally married spouses of same-sex couples are enrolled in the system. Also yesterday, Quinnipiac University released a poll finding that 41 percent of New York voters surveyed said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in New York. Thirty-three percent said they favor civil unions but not legal marriage and 19 percent said same-sex couples should not be given any legal recognition of their relationships. The latest numbers were virtually identical to polls taken in June 2008 and December 2007. Under current law, same-sex couples cannot legally marry in New York. The Democratic leadership in the New York Senate has not decided whether to bring up for a vote this year a bill that would change that. The measure passed the Assembly in 2007. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals has agreed to consider whether public agencies should continue to recognize gay unions contracted where they are legal, which now includes Vermont. - Joel Stashenko

Panel Grants Leave to Appeal Stuyvesant Town Ruling

The landlord of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village will have another shot at contesting claims that thousands of units were illegally deregulated in the 80-acre housing complex. Yesterday, the Appellate Division, First Department, in Roberts v. Tishman Speyer Properties, L.P., 100956/07, issued an order granting Tishman Speyer Properties’ leave to appeal a March decision reinstating a $200 million class action brought by a group of tenants. The tenants claimed that defendants, including Tishman Speyer, hiked rents above permissible rent-stabilized levels, while receiving J-51 tax breaks from New York City. On March 5, a unanimous First Department panel held that Tishman Speyer, whose general partner PCV ST Owner L.P. purchased the 1940s complex for some $5.4 billion in 2006, could not deregulate the units, regardless of whether they became rent-stabilized solely as a result of the tax abatement or for one or more reasons in addition to the landlord’s participation in the J-51 program ( NYLJ, March 6). Landlord advocates have claimed the financial impact of the decision would extend well beyond Stuyvesant Town and could be devastating. On March 13, the First Department stayed its earlier ruling, and ordered that affected tenants, whose market rate rent exceeded rent-stabilized levels, place their rent differential in an escrow account. Metropolitan Life Insurance and Annuity Co. and Metropolitan Tower Life Insurance Co., codefendants in the suit, and the Real Estate Board of New York, which filed an amicus brief, also received leave to appeal. Presiding Justice Luis A. Gonzalez ( See Profile), and Justices Eugene Nardelli ( See Profile), Rolando T. Acosta ( See Profile) and Leland G. DeGrasse ( See Profile) sat on the appeals panel. Alexander Schmidt of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, who represents all but one of the tenants who filed suit, said he does not know the current amount in escrow. A spokesman for Tishman Speyer declined to comment on any aspect of the escrow fund. - Noeleen G. Walder

Judge Grants Damages To Tenant Hit With Bedbugs

A tenant plagued by bedbugs infestation is entitled to monetary relief from her landlord, a Manhattan judge has ruled. When Jacqueline Zayas discovered bedbugs in her apartment, she threw out nearly $4,000 in personal property and hired private exterminators to no avail. An employee of the landlord, Franklin Plaza, a Mitchell-Lama cooperative, told Ms. Zayas there was nothing the building could do about the infestation. However, in Zayas v. Franklin Plaza, 3316/08, Civil Court Judge Anil C. Singh ( See Profile) held that a letter from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development stating that shareholders at Franklin Plaza were responsible for the extermination of bedbugs in their apartments did “not provide the cooperative corporation with a safe harbor.” Finding that the corporation, which was on notice of the infestation, breached its duty of care, Judge Singh awarded Ms. Zayas $3,899 for her personal property loss. The judge also held that Ms. Zayas had to pay her own extermination costs, since she was responsible for keeping her apartment in good repair. The decision will be published Monday. - Noeleen G. Walder

Online Gambling Company Settles for $105 Million

Federal prosecutors have reached a settlement with a British online gambling company. Acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin announced yesterday that PartyGaming PLC has agreed to forfeit $105 million in proceeds from its illegal operations. The money, earned from poker and casino games, will be paid over the next three years. The agreement follows the Dec. 16, 2008, guilty plea of PartyGaming founder Anurag Dikshit to using the wires to transmit bets and wager information in interstate commerce. Mr. Dikshit also admitted to forfeiture allegations from which he will forfeit $300 million to the United States. He faces as much as two years in prison when he is sentenced by Southern District Judge Jed S. Rakoff on Sept. 30, 2010. - Mark Hamblett

Mets Star Mulls Suit Against Sports Memorabilia Outfit

Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado is mulling a suit against an entity called Authentic Memorabilia over an agreement to sign items including cleats, bats, balls and jerseys. According to court documents filed in Matter of Delgado v. Lader, 21324/08, Mr. Delgado claims he is owed at least $400,000 on a two-year deal he signed in October 2006 “for services rendered relating to the marketing of his celebrity status as a professional baseball player.” Authentic Memorabilia was dissolved in December 2007 and was apparently reformed in January 2008 under the same name, according to a pre-action discovery order by then-Supreme Court Justice Leonard B. Austin of Nassau County. Mr. Delgado was “left in the unenviable position of not knowing the proper parties to be named in this action for breach of contract,” Justice Austin, now on the Appellate Division, Second Department bench ( See Profile), wrote in allowing Mr. Delgado to depose two principals allegedly affiliated with Authentic. Marvin Natiss, one of Mr. Delgado’s lawyers, declined comment, other than to say the depositions occurred last month and no determination as to a possible suit had yet been made. - Vesselin Mitev

Bronx Panel Seeks Civil Court Applicants

The Bronx Democratic Party’s judicial screening panel has set April 22 as the deadline for applications from those seeking to obtain the party’s backing for two openings this year on the Civil Court. Applications may be obtained by calling the panel’s administrator, Kenneth J. Knuckles, at 718-679-9000.