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RECONSTITUTED FIRM OPENS TWO OFFICES A small law firm that merged with Sideman & Bancroft about three years ago has decided to leave the fold. Ex-Sideman & Bancroft partners Paul Gutierrez, a labor litigator, and Vincent Ruiz, who specializes in business disputes and translating legal documents, were law partners at Gutierrez and Associates for 17 years. Their small firm was absorbed by Sideman 2 1/2 years ago, and the lawyers decided to strike out on their own again on May 1, Gutierrez said. “They say that you can’t go home again,” the trial attorney said. “Well, we’ve come home.” Gutierrez said he left the firm because he wanted to have more control over decisions that involved his clients. This time around, he and Ruiz have launched Gutierrez.Ruiz, a six-attorney firm that Gutierrez says is “100 percent Hispanic-owned.” It has an office at 333 Sacramento St. — which he says is across the street from Sideman & Bancroft — and one near Montclair Village in Oakland. Gutierrez and Ruiz have been joined by former Sideman & Bancroft associate Robert Belshaw, who will be a partner at the new firm. The firm has three of counsel: David Winton, Daniel Geraldi and Virginia Villegas. Sideman & Bancroft name partner Richard Sideman was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon. – Jahna Berry 9-11 VICTIMS’ FUND SUITS ARE DISMISSED NEW YORK — A Manhattan federal judge has thrown out three lawsuits that claimed the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund improperly limited awards to the families of high-income victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Southern District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that the fund as administered by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg “reasonably and properly” implemented the congressional act that created it. The judge also said Feinberg could properly consider “financial need and financial resources” in determining awards to the families of victims who earned annual incomes above the 98th percentile in the country, or $231,000. The plaintiffs were “unhappy with the special master’s discretion beyond the 98th percentile level to determine awards according to the claimant’s needs, resources and other individual circumstances,” Judge Hellerstein wrote in his 43-page decision in Colaio v. Feinberg, 03-0558; Smith v. Ashcroft, 03-1040; and Schneider v. Feinberg, 03-1129. “That, however, is discretion that Congress wanted the special master to have,” the judge concluded. Congress created the fund after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to provide an alternative to litigation for the families of the more than 3,000 victims. Feinberg was appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, also named as a defendant, to oversee the fund and determine awards. Claimants receiving payment from the fund agree not to sue other parties for wrongful death. Feinberg expressed satisfaction at the court’s opinion. “I hope this would encourage eligible families that are on the fence to come into the program as the best alternative,” he said. – The New York Law Journal

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