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AIRLINE SETTLES WITH MAN KICKED OFF FLIGHT Northwest Airlines has apologized and paid damages to a Salinas software engineer removed from a flight for his “Middle Eastern” appearance, his attorneys announced Wednesday. Harris Khan, a Pakistani, settled out of court with Northwest for an undisclosed amount, an apology and a agreement that the airline would send the pilot who removed him to civil rights training. “We are pretty confident this is the first cash payout in any airline-profiling case,” said Khan’s attorney, Robert Rubin, legal director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Rubin said this is the first of about a dozen profiling complaints his group is handling since the Sept. 11 attacks. “These are the kinds of indignities that Arabs and Muslims are becoming more and more used to,” Rubin said. Khan lodged a complaint with the airline after he was removed from a San Jose-bound flight departing Minneapolis on Christmas Day 2001. According to a press release from his attorneys, Khan cleared security, checked in and boarded the flight, when he was removed by two crew members. Minneapolis police questioned Khan and released him. He spent an extra night in Minneapolis before returning to California on Dec. 26. Khaldoun Baghdadi, an associate with San Francisco’s Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, Wecht & Schoenberger, who also represented Khan, said police reports actually helped shore up Khan’s complaint. “The manner in which the case was documented by the police typified the transparency of the discriminatory basis with which Northwest removed Mr. Khan,” Baghdadi said. Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch confirmed a settlement had been reached. He refused to discuss details but said, “It has been a strict policy with our employees that passengers can only be removed from flights because of their behavior, not their appearance.” Ebenhoch said he didn’t know if that policy was in place when Khan was removed from the flight. – Shannon Lafferty DIET DRUG LITIGATION LEADS TO FAT FEES PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge has awarded interim fees of more than $150 million to 83 plaintiffs’ law firms for their work in the massive fen-phen diet drug litigation that led to a $3.75 billion class-action settlement. The lion’s share of the fees — more than $51.6 million — goes to Levin Fishbein Sedran & Berman of Philadelphia, whose top partners took a leading role at every stage of the case. And the interim fees are just a fraction of what the plaintiffs’ lawyers could ultimately earn in the case since it covers only work up to June 30, 2001. In a 43-page opinion announcing the awards in In re Diet Drug Litigation, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said he had appointed a five-member committee to recommend how the interim fees should be allocated. Bartle said he had urged all of the lawyers to try to reach an agreed-upon allocation without the need for court involvement, but that “this unfortunately was not to be.” As a result, Bartle was forced to resolve some contentious disputes from some of the key players in the case who argued that the lawyers on the fee allocation committee had concocted an allocation plan that was designed to benefit their firms the most. – The Legal Intelligencer

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