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JURY CLEARS SIERRA CLUB MEMBERS A San Francisco jury Wednesday cleared the Sierra Club and two of its members of libel in a case brought by a woman who allegedly makes her living as a North Coast marijuana grower. The lawsuit filed by Mary Miles accused the Sierra Club and two other defendants of defaming her through a letter that questioned her mental stability. In a two-step verdict process, jurors first unanimously found the letter’s contents were probably defamatory, but by a 9-3 vote decided there was not clear and convincing evidence that the statements were made with reckless disregard or in a knowingly false manner. Miles, a Sierra Club member, sought internal documents about the organization, but was rebuffed. She claimed she was shut out of club officer elections. Club president Carl Pope told Ron Guenther to turn over the documents to Miles. Guenther instead wrote a letter to Pope telling him Miles suffers from a “severe pathological obsession” and had been “institutionalized” and “on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” Guenther, the chair of the club’s Mendo-Lake Group, its secretary, Roanne Withers, and the Sierra Club were named as defendants. They argued that Miles was a public figure by virtue of cartoons she drew for local papers and also suggested she was well known on the North Coast because of her alleged pot-growing enterprise. They also said she made public the alleged defamatory letter by attaching it to her libel complaint. It was later printed in a North Coast newspaper. Oakland solo David Hicks said he considered there was “reversible error” in the instructions of Superior Court Judge John Conway. He indicated he may appeal. “I think the verdict form was done in a manner that disadvantaged my client,” Hicks said. Michael Ward, the Sierra Club’s lawyer, said he was “pleased with the result” and that jurors decided the “plaintiff hadn’t established it case.” — Dennis J. Opatrny EX-LYON LAWYER JOINS WHITE & CASE Steven Hemminger, the former head of Lyon & Lyon’s San Jose office, has joined White & Case’s Palo Alto office. Hemminger started at White & Case Aug. 27, a few days before Lyon & Lyon disbanded. He spent his entire 20-year career with Lyon, opening its Silicon Valley office in 1990. Several firms have been pursuing Lyon & Lyon partners since the firm announced in early August that it was closing its doors. Hemminger said he was attracted to White & Case’s international presence. While other firms have an international practice, he said, “I found White & Case to have it truly integrated into their system.” Other partners from Lyon’s San Jose office have migrated to other local firms. David Burse joined Bingham McCutchen and Jeffrey Miller jumped to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. The addition of Hemminger is part of White & Case’s strategy to build its 15-attorney Palo Alto office, which focuses on intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions and international work. “We have a big push on IP,” said Virginia Gibson, managing partner of the firm’s Palo Alto and San Francisco offices. “We are building that department aggressively and have several things in the works.” The firm also plans to grow its nine-attorney San Francisco office, which opened July 2001 in temporary space at 1 Market. The office plans to move to 3 Embarcadero in January. Gibson, who joined White & Case from Baker & McKenzie last year, said the firm expects to have 25 to 30 attorneys in the S.F. office within the next year. — Brenda Sandburg

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