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‘THE COMB’ BRUSHES OFF PD JOB FOR DEATH PENALTY GIG San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Michael Burt, who has become a nationally recognized expert on forensic evidence such as DNA and death penalty defense, will leave the office in January. Burt, 50, who has been with the defender’s office for 23 years, said he is leaving to concentrate on death penalty cases. “This is my decision,” Burt said last week. “It’s based on opportunities that have presented themselves for the advancement of my career.” He will join the Federal Death Penalty Resource Council that coordinates representation for capital cases throughout the United States. “We make sure that the proper lawyers are assigned to the case and get the proper resources,” Burt said. He also will work with the government of Mexico in seeking representation for Mexican nationals accused of homicide in this country. Although he will leave the PD’s office, Burt intends to keep his private practice in San Francisco and assist his former employer in helping train new attorneys. “Definitely he’ll leave a void, but there are many talented attorneys who will be the next generation,” said Public Defender-elect Jeff Adachi. Adachi said Burt’s work defending death penalty cases dried up because S.F. District Attorney Terence Hallinan’s policy is not to seek capital punishment. Burt has defended or been on the defense team of some of California’s most notorious cases of the past 20 years. While on leave in Los Angeles, he defended Lyle Menendez, who with his brother Eric, was accused of murdering their parents. Burt got a hung jury. Both brothers were convicted after a second trial, but he was not on their defense team for it. He was again on leave recently from the PD’s office to assist in the defense of Cary Stayner, who was convicted of three Yosemite murders and sentenced to death last week. Burt also represented serial killers Charles Ng and Richard Ramirez in San Francisco cases that have not been tried. Both are on death row from other convictions. Former prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney Bill Fazio tried two murder cases against Burt, won them both, but failed to get the death sentence in either. “He’s probably one of the best in the country in dealing with circumstances in mitigation and aggravation,” Fazio said. “He’s affectionately known as ‘The Comb,’ because he was like a fine-toothed comb in covering every little nuance in a trial.” – Dennis J. Opatrny PLANE SPEAKING Airlines know all about bankruptcy. In the past 18 months a trio of major airlines have wound up in federal bankruptcy court, with United Airlines parent UAL Corp.’s Chapter 11 filing being the largest and the most recent. So it’s appropriate that the nation’s top airlines will offer passengers all the latest news, trends and developments in the bankruptcy sector as part of their in-flight entertainment. Beginning in March, United, U.S. Airways and American Airlines (the first two are both currently operating under bankruptcy court protection) will air “Bankruptcy Today,” a 15-minute, monthly audio segment about the business of financial restructuring. “Because bankruptcy is becoming common and achieving a kind of notoriety, we think it’s important . . . to help better inform, in this case the traveling public, about the implications and what it does mean for a public company to file for bankruptcy,” said Samuel Gerdano, the executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, which is producing the show. “The idea is to try to demystify some of these issues.” Offered on the Sky Radio Network, a producer of in-flight business talk radio shows, “Bankruptcy Today” will cover a variety of commercial and consumer bankruptcy issues and explore developments in corporate reorganizations. Among the first guests slated to appear on the show are Andrew Caine, a lawyer at Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl, Young & Jones and president of the ABI, and Gary Burns of accounting firm KPMG. As for the irony of the new show’s venue, Gerdano remarked only that it had been duly noted. – Alexei Oreskovic THE NAME GAME When half of the partners with names on the door retire, how long do you wait to shorten the firm’s name to reflect that? The answer for one Palo Alto corporate firm was 10 months. And it took even longer to fix the sign. After 20 years of being known as Tomlinson Zisko Morosoli & Maser, the 16-lawyer general services firm has shortened its name to Tomlinson Zisko. The firm changed its name in October but it took a few weeks to get around to changing its prominent sign on Palo Alto’s Oregon Expressway. William Zisko, the firm’s co-founder and managing partner, said that because Eugene Morosoli Jr. retired in 2000 and Thomas Maser retired in 2001, it made sense to shorten the name. It also reflected what everyone called the firm anyway — Tomlinson Zisko. The change comes just in time for the firm’s 20th anniversary on Jan. 1, and, Zisko said, “In a very short period of time, we’ve seen it all. We’ve never seen it be so very good and turn so very sour in such a very short period of time.” Timothy Tomlinson and Zisko co-founded the firm in 1983 with David Cohen. The trio shared equal billing on the marquee. Maser and Morosoli joined the firm in the first year, and shortly after that Cohen left to start a new firm. So with a little shuffling, the firm adopted the four-person name it just shed. Zisko isn’t sure yet how the firm is going to celebrate its 20 years but he’s got one treat lined up for himself — he’s kicking off the year by handing over the reins as managing partner to his colleague James Janz. – Renee Deger KIRKLAND’S SHUFFLE About the only thing different for a handful of Kirkland & Ellis lawyers relocating to San Francisco will be the view. After months of secrecy, the Chicago firm finally unveiled its partner lineup for the Bay Area office it’s been planning since last summer. The firm is transferring five partners from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles to get the new office up and running on Jan. 2. That could prompt a sigh of relief among local firm managers who see every new law firm arrival as a potential raid on their rainmakers. Kirkland has been mum about its overall plan for the Bay Area outpost, but it announced plans to transfer about a dozen associates from other offices as well. To be located on Bush Street in San Francisco’s Financial District, the new office is the firm’s sixth satellite. Corporate partner Jeffrey Hammes from Chicago and Stephen Johnson, an intellectual property partner from New York, will manage the office. The others relocating are corporate partners David Breach and Stephen Oetgen, both from Chicago, and intellectual property litigator Eric Lamison from Los Angeles. They’ll be able to tap the expertise of partners Gary Holihan, a private equity specialist, and Mark Pals, an IP litigator. Holihan and Pals, however, will only be working part-time in San Francisco. – Renee Deger

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