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BASF SCORES BIG WITH POLITICAL BIGWIGS The Bar Association of San Francisco’s 2004 presidential candidate series so far has been a fund-raising boon to the organization. Thursday’s speech by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was the third in the series, following on the appearances of Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina. Together, the events have raised about $45,000 for the cash-strapped bar, said Barbara Fanning, BASF’s director of continuing legal education. For the candidates, all Democrats, the series has provided a chance for some face time with a lucrative fund-raising constituency. Dean, who has emerged from the Democratic pack as the most vocal critic of President Bush, even went so far as to ask attendees to donate money through his Web site. Those hoping Dean would come out swinging at the Bush administration weren’t disappointed. Calling Bush’s use of the term quota “despicable” when referring to the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy, Dean said the president was using “a racially charged word to stir fear in whites.” He also bashed the Bush administration for the war in Iraq, tax cuts and its handling of North Korea. Dean also chimed in on tort reform. Dean, a doctor, doesn’t support the federal government putting a cap on medical malpractice damages. He said the states should decide for themselves how to handle the issue. The ability of the bar to land such high-profile speakers is the work of its new executive director, Martha Whetstone, former political director for the Democratic National Committee. Whetstone also worked on the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. For local attorneys, the series has provided an opportunity to hear from the candidates without having to dole out a lot of money — $65 for bar members — or contribute to the campaign. “I’m just here to make up my mind and see what Dean has to say,” said David Ivester, 53, an attorney in the San Francisco office of Stoel Rives. “I think the bar hosting the candidates is a good thing, as long as they’re careful not to politicize the bar too much.” The next speaker will be Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri on July 22. — Jason Dearen EYE FOR OPPORTUNITY With major combat operations in Iraq finished, lawyers are mobilizing to play a role in rebuilding the ravaged country. Pillsbury Winthrop took a significant step in gearing up for the new front with the unveiling of its latest practice group: the Iraq reconstruction project team. The group currently counts about 25 lawyers at various Pillsbury Winthrop offices, and is headed up by partners Mark Riedy, Christopher Wall and Ayaz Shaikh. “We’ll be focused pretty generally on all of the areas of our firm’s practices, with a particular emphasis on the banking side, infrastructure development and finance,” said Riedy, an international project finance attorney in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. Riedy said the team is currently in talks to represent several companies that have been awarded contracts and subcontracts to rebuild Iraq. And over the next few months, the government is expected to award more contracts to companies for everything from rebuilding Iraq’s telecommunications system to upgrading warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Pillsbury Winthrop’s new group, which will be sponsoring an Iraq reconstruction conference in July, will even have a special Web site dedicated to it, Riedy said. In addition to representing contractors, the group hopes to assist in drafting new laws and regulations for Iraq, though Riedy noted such work will not be in business sectors where the firm is representing contractors. “If you drafted the power laws of a country and then came in to do the power projects, you’d probably be running into conflicts,” he said. — Alexei Oreskovic FIGHTING VIOLENCE Prominent Democrat Andrew Cuomo was the keynote speaker at a fund-raiser for the Legal Community Against Violence last week, but the former secretary of housing and urban development admitted to being intimidated by one speaker before him: an 11-year-old boy. Both were guests at the 600-person dinner Wednesday, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 1993 massacre at 101 California St. The gunman, a former client of the Pettit & Martin law firm there, killed nine people in the building and injured five others, then shot himself. When Cuomo — an attorney, one-time candidate for governor of New York, and son-in-law of the assassinated Robert F. Kennedy — stepped to the podium, he noted that in the past he had had to follow great speakers such as his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and President Bill Clinton. He added, “Then I have to come to San Francisco and get up after Zachary Berman.” It was a good-natured acknowledgement of the standing ovation the audience had given Berman, who spoke with poise of losing his father, lawyer Jack Berman, in the shootings. Charles Ehrlich and John Heisse II, who were both litigation partners at Pettit & Martin in 1993, were also honored for their roles in founding the Legal Community Against Violence in the wake of the shootings. The nonprofit offers free legal assistance to those working on regulatory avenues to prevent gun violence. Soon after making a string of jokes that got the audience laughing, Heisse paused for what seemed like a long moment, and the room turned noticeably quiet. When he began talking again, his voice cracked. “It’s a really rare moment when you can get emotional in front of 600 people you barely know.” — Pam Smith ONE MEETING AT A TIME SACRAMENTO — It didn’t look good for the California Law Revision Commission back in January. Gov. Gray Davis’ initial budget proposal made no allocation to cover the commission’s $550,000 annual operating costs, effectively killing it. Luckily for the commission, Executive Secretary Nathaniel Sterling was able to successfully explain to legislators what exactly he and his four colleagues do all day in their office in Palo Alto. The Senate and Assembly budget committees have since restored the commission’s funding. The five employees serve as staff for 10 Law Revision commissioners. The governor appoints seven members, who sit with one pick each from the Senate and Assembly as well as Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine. (There is currently one vacancy on the commission.) At the direction of the Legislature, the commission, which was created in 1953, conducts nonpartisan examinations of problem areas of the law and suggests reforms, often to ensure “laws work harmoniously,” Sterling said. It has a 95 percent success rate in getting its legislative fix enacted, he added. Recently, for example, the commission has suggested bills to clean up state law since trial court unification. Projects this year include looking at the statutes regarding condominium and other housing associations, seeing if California’s Evidence Code conforms to federal rules and analyzing issues relating to financial privacy — a hot topic for voters and legislators alike. Of course, the commission is not yet out of danger. A lot can change during budget negotiations, and Davis’ initial proposal could come back into play. Sterling said his staff and the commissioners are trying to cut corners wherever they can, including limiting travel and reducing the number of meetings. Commissioners have also given up their $100 per diem. “It’s such an unusual year. . . . Anything can happen,” Sterling said. “For now, we’re sort of taking it one meeting at a time.” — Jeff Chorney

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