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COMPLEX CASE WON’T END WITH AWARD A jury may have delivered a $383 million verdict in San Francisco Superior Court on Monday, but don’t expect the insurance coverage fight that spawned the award to end anytime soon. The complex case — involving insurance coverage on an Alabama class action — will enter another phase where the court “will be asked to allocate amongst the 22 defendants the share of the $383 million verdict that they’ll be responsible for,” said Thomas Nolan, managing partner of firm operations at Howrey Simon Arnold White. Howrey lawyers represented International Paper Co. and Masonite International Corp. in their suit against the 22 insurance carriers. The companies are attempting to recover some of the approximately $470 million they had paid out to class members after settling a class action in 1998. The case is International Paper v. Affiliated FM Insurance Co., 974350. The superior court jury unanimously rejected the insurance companies’ argument that all of the money that had been paid was subject to exclusions in the insurance policies. Jurors found that approximately $383 million of the money was covered, according to a statement by Howrey attorneys. In the next phase of the trial, a judge will also decide which, if any, of the 22 insurance carriers will be responsible to pay an additional $120 million in fees paid in the administration of the settlement agreement, Nolan said. The Howrey Simon trial team was led by Nolan and partners Joanne Caruso and Robert Shulman. The defense team was led by James Bennett of Morrison & Foerster and John Farrell of Larson King, Nolan said. Plaintiffs in the original class action alleged that a hardboard siding product that Masonite made for home exteriors was defective and would cause damage to other parts of a structure, Nolan said. International Paper was Masonite’s parent company at the time. – Pam Smith DEFENDER FIRED AFTER CRIMINAL CHARGE SAN JOSE — Three-time judge candidate Thomas Spielbauer has been fired from the Santa Clara County public defender’s office amid allegations that the 23-year deputy PD deceived the court. Spielbauer said Tuesday he was fired July 3, weeks after the Santa Clara district attorney charged him with a misdemeanor count of deceiving the court, a violation of Business & Professions Code � 6128. Spielbauer is accused of telling retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Paul Teilh at a January court hearing that a witness couldn’t be located and was unavailable when, just a few days earlier, he had spoken to the witness at his home. Spielbauer’s defense attorney Zacharias Ledet suggested in court papers that Spielbauer had been set up by the DA and the PD, which had investigated Spielbauer’s actions after the DA’s office complained. “Mr. Spielbauer cannot be faulted for failing to realize on Jan. 29, 2003, the level of duplicity and unlawful behavior that would be engaged in by the District Attorney and the Public Defender’s offices, in cooperation with each other,” Ledet wrote. Spielbauer had told Teilh that the witness wasn’t available to testify because there was a warrant out for his arrest and persuaded the judge to admit a statement the witness gave police. Deputy DA David Boyd later found out Spielbauer had interviewed the witness days before. Deputy DA Frank Berry is pushing to go forward with Spielbauer’s trial, but Ledet wants Teilh to first clarify what happened in January. Teilh scheduled a hearing for July 29. “That’s the proper way to do it,” Ledet said Tuesday. “I think there is some ambiguity in the transcript, so let’s just go back to have the judge decide.” – Shannon Lafferty JUDGE STRIKES DOWN STATE’S PLEDGE LAW PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge Tuesday struck down a new Pennsylvania law that would have required schools in Pennsylvania to begin each day by having students sing the national anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Kelly found that the law violates the constitutional rights of all three groups of plaintiffs — the students, their parents and the schools. If the state wants to teach civics, Kelly said, a better approach would be to require classes on those subjects. The ruling is a victory for the attorneys who filed the suit in February, just hours before the law was set to go into effect. In a 29-page decision in The Circle School v. Phillips, handed down late Tuesday, Judge Kelly found that the new law — a pair of subsections added to the Pennsylvania Public School Code — failed to pass constitutional muster because it infringed on fundamental rights and was not “narrowly tailored” to advance a “compelling state interest.” – The Legal Intelligencer LAWYER-TAX CASE ERUPTS IN FEE FIGHT ATLANTA — Georgia’s Supreme Court declared the city of Atlanta’s $400 per lawyer annual occupation tax unconstitutional in March, but lawyers now are fighting over fees, tax refunds and interest potentially worth $20 million. In Fulton Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes’ courtroom last week, the dispute escalated into a clash of titans as name-brand trial lawyers, big-firm partners and city attorneys sparred over how many lawyer-members of the class action qualify for refunds — an issue that directly affects how much all this will cost the city. They also fought over how much of the potential pot of gold the two plaintiffs’ lawyers should get. Two of Georgia’s top trial lawyers were called as experts to testify that the 33.3 percent in legal fees requested by lawyers for the class was fair and reasonable. The class lawyers are former Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Irwin Stolz Jr. and Robert Feagin, of Decker, Hallman, Barber & Briggs in Atlanta. At stake is millions of dollars in refunds the city could owe. Atlanta’s potential payout ranges from less than $1 million to more than $13 million — not including interest. – Fulton County Daily Report

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