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BROBECK SUES CLIENT OVER UNPAID BILLS Scrambling to reimburse its creditors, the defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison has filed suit against a former client for failing to pay its bills. Brobeck is seeking $29,455 from U.S. Microbics Inc. for unspecified services. The complaint, Brobeck v. U.S. Microbics, 03-418926, was filed Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court. Based in Carlsbad, U.S. Microbics provides products for bioremediation and wastewater treatment. U.S. Microbics President Robert Brehm did not return a phone call, and Brobeck’s attorney, solo practitioner Joel Adler, said he could not comment on the complaint. On Tuesday, Brobeck filed suit against two of its insurers — Vigilant Insurance Co. and Federal Insurance Co. — for failing to provide coverage for two breach of contract suits. The suits were filed in 1995 by the now-defunct Santa Monica firm Dickson, Carlson & Campillo. The firm claims that Brobeck acted inappropriately when it hired away Dickson, Carlson partners Debra Pole and William Fitzgerald. Brobeck v. Vigilant, 03-418888, was also filed in San Francisco Superior Court. Stephen Snyder, head of Brobeck’s liquidation committee, said the committee decided to take legal action now because of the firm’s current financial situation. Brobeck ceased operations Feb. 14 and is struggling to pay off a $56 million bank debt. “It’s one thing when you’re operating a business and have income and can pay your lawyers,” Snyder said. “It’s another thing when you hit the wall and have no money.” A jury trial in the tort phase of the Dickson, Carlson litigation begins Tuesday before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Cesar Sarmiento. The witness list includes four former Brobeck chairmen — Snyder, Richard Odom, Tower Snow Jr. and John Larson. — Brenda Sandburg N.Y. DEATH PENALTY SENTENCING UPHELD NEW YORK — A constitutional challenge to the sentencing provisions of New York’s death penalty statute was dismissed this week by a federal appeals court, most likely signifying a final defeat for a novel legal argument. In a brief opinion, a unanimous panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that it was not irrational to have juries sentence first-degree murder defendants facing the death penalty, while judges sentence first-degree murder defendants not facing death. Under New York’s capital punishment statute, re-enacted in 1995, a jury in a capital trial can impose either a death sentence or life without parole. The sentence is delivered not during the guilt phase of the trial, but after a separate proceeding on the sentence alone. If the jury cannot agree on a sentence, the trial judge can impose a parole-eligible sentence of 25 years to life. However, in first-degree murder cases where prosecutors decline to seek the death penalty, judges alone sentence defendants to life without parole or a shorter term. In Holland v. Donnelly, 02-2358, Darryl Holland argued that his sentence of life without parole, which was imposed by a judge, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it arbitrarily treated death penalty defendants differently from non-death penalty defendants like him. — The New York Law Journal

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