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  A federal judge has dismissed a case leveled by one law professor against another over a book deal gone awry. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the motion to dismiss filed by University of California Hastings College of Law Professor Kate Bloch, who is defending a lawsuit brought by Kevin McMunigal, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. The two professors wrote a criminal law casebook that Aspen Publishers released in 2005. Judge Susan Illston’s Dec. 23 decision dismissed with prejudice McMunigal’s eight causes of action, which included breach of contract, specific performance and partition of copyright. The judge determined after hearing oral arguments in December that granting McMunigal “leave to amend would be futile.” McMunigal and Bloch agreed in 1999 to write the casebook, entitled Criminal Law: A Contemporary Approach, and an accompanying teacher’s manual. The publication agreement with Aspen, according to McMunigal’s lawsuit, identified them as authors and required them to submit a single manuscript by Aug. 15, 2003. The agreement granted Aspen all rights, title and interest and provided for an advance of $4,000 to each co-author. Bloch, a graduate of Stanford Law School, teaches criminal law and ethics at Hastings. McMunigal, a graduate of University of California, Berkeley School of Law, teaches criminal law, evidence and professional responsibility at Case Western. Neither professor responded to requests for comment about the decision. McMunigal’s lawsuit alleged that he and Bloch independently selected and edited cases, statutes and other materials, that Bloch failed to obtain permission to use copyrighted items and that she missed deadlines, forcing a delay in publication. He also asserted that Bloch insisted that they write separate teachers manuals and that she didn’t inform Aspen about her plans. Her conduct, McMunigal argued, led to Aspen’s decision not to publish a revised edition of the book. McMunigal further asserted that he and Bloch in 2007 agreed to separate as authors and to recognize that each held sole copyrights to their respective parts of the book. He argued that Bloch’s repudiation of the alleged separation agreement killed a subsequent book deal he had reached with Aspen, which was conditioned on his separating from Bloch. McMunigal asserted that a series of e-mails established that he and Bloch executed a separation agreement. But the court was not convinced. “A series of negotiations, however, is insufficient,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff must be able to point to a single writing from defendant that evidences the parties’ full and complete agreement to transfer copyright.” Leigh Jones can be contacted at [email protected].

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