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News: San Diego District Attorney Paul Pfingst is ousted in a close vote by Superior Court Judge Bonnie Dumanis. Her campaign emphasizes honesty and integrity; in particular, her supporters criticize Pfingst for “solicit[ing] payments from deputy DAs after election in early 1995, to pay off personal debt.” Comment: That sure is good. It’s very important that district attorneys be ethical and honest at all times. News: Two weeks after her election victory, Dumanis sends out a fund-raising letter to 14,000 lawyers, including almost all of the 300 deputy DAs now under her supervision. The letter asks for help in retiring her campaign debt, and suggests that donors can become “Friends of Bonnie Dumanis” for $500. Comment: Oops. Never mind. News: The State Bar of California sparks a firestorm by inviting Bar Association of San Francisco President Angela Bradstreet to discuss a policy against allowing judges to belong to discriminatory groups, but then changing its mind and withdrawing the invitation, saying that the issue is more appropriately raised with Chief Justice Ronald George. Comment: Once again the State Bar demonstrates its keen instincts for politics and diplomacy. News: Former Bar Governor Peter Keane says in a letter to the editor, “I hang my head in shame at the moral cowardice of the State Bar of California’s withdrawal of the invitation.” He adds that it’s a “disgraceful insult to Ms. Bradstreet, one of the profession’s most respected spokespersons in the nation.” Comment: The Peter Keane for Mayor campaign is officially under way. News: Law professors charge that the American Bar Association could have headed off the Security and Exchange Commission’s severe new rules for corporate lawyer conduct if the ABA had forthrightly addressed the issue on its own. “The ABA’s stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise and the ABA’s general disregard to what was going on in the marketplace is responsible for this,” says Stephen Bainbridge, a corporate law professor at the UCLA School of Law. Proving it’s not stubborn, the ABA’s president, A.P. Carlton Jr., responds, “I don’t like academics sitting there speculating on what the ABA has or hasn’t done. We’re the lawyers, and we’re the people who have been involved in the issue.” Comment: Do you think the ABA has been taking PR training from the California State Bar? News: The U.S. Department of Labor issues an opinion letter stating that insurance claims adjusters are generally exempt from overtime pay requirements. The opinion isn’t binding on courts, but could in theory have some persuasive effect. Comment: That giant gasp you just heard was from San Francisco attorney Steven Zieff, whose $90 million judgment on behalf of 2,400 claims adjusters last year is still on appeal. News: Complaining of plagiarism, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach asserts copyrights on its securities fraud complaints and sends cease-and-desist letters to about 10 other plaintiff firms that it says is illegally copying them. Comment: It makes you wonder, have any trial lawyers tried copyrighting the phrase, “This isn’t about the money, it’s about the principle”? Have any prosecutors copyrighted, “A trial is a search for truth,” or any defense lawyers, “Some other dude did it”? And who holds the copyright on “cease and desist” for that matter? They all could be making a fortune in royalties. News: California Supreme Court unanimously denies review in Jordan v. Department of Motor Vehicles, 100 Cal.App.4th 431. This is the case where an ADR panel, which included former Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, awarded $88 million to several plaintiffs firms despite legislation passed specifically to keep the fee award low. Gov. Gray Davis called the award “outrageous,” and the Third District Court of Appeal later agreed it should be reduced to $18.5 million, but ripped the plaintiffs’ lawyers for living in an “unreal world of greed” and the state government for breaching an arbitration agreement. Comment: The Supreme Court denied review? I can’t imagine why the justices wouldn’t want to step into the middle of this one. News: The California Supreme Court rules that the motion picture industry can’t sue a Texas Web site operator in California just because most of the motion picture industry is located there. “Under this logic,” writes Justice Janice Rogers Brown in the majority opinion, “plaintiffs connected to the auto industry could sue any defendant in Michigan, plaintiffs connected to the financial industry could sue any defendant in New York and plaintiffs connected to the potato industry could sue any defendant in Idaho.” Comment: Nice turn of phrase. She ought to copyright it.

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