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TAKING CHARGE Dennis Archer, former two-time Detroit mayor and Michigan Supreme Court justice, assumed the presidency of the American Bar Association on Monday, the first African-American to do so. Outgoing President A.P. Carlton Jr. handed over the gavel in a ceremony Monday afternoon during the group’s annual meeting in San Francisco. At a press conference Monday morning, Archer said much has changed since his first ABA annual meeting 31 years ago, also held in San Francisco, when he was one of only two minorities in attendance. “Now, the ABA will have two African-Americans in its highest positions.” He was referring to the new president-elect of the ABA for 2005, Robert Grey Jr., of Hunton & Williams in Richmond, Va. According to an ABA representative, the first African-American member of the ABA was accepted in 1943, a year after Archer was born. Among the initiatives Archer is touting for his term is a project to expand legal representation for men and women serving in the military. A working group has been formed to assess the changing legal needs of America’s soldiers and sailors, particularly as more reservists pull longer duty. Archer said because the military ensures the rights of all Americans by serving overseas, America’s lawyers should ensure their rights are protected while they’re there. – Benjamin Temchine THE KING OF PAIN LIKES TO GET PERSONAL If you’re an executive at a scandal-plagued public company, you know William Lerach is out to get you. But really it’s his clients, he says, who want to pour on the pain. At an ABA seminar on securities law, the king of plaintiff class actions offered some observations about the large, institutional investors Lerach and other plaintiffs lawyers have cultivated as clients. Not only do the investors want to bring derivative suits over fat-cat executive compensation packages, they’re holding out an awfully big carrot for Lerach to make sure that executives who commit fraud pay the consequences personally. According to Lerach, he has been offered 50 percent of any judgment that comes directly from the pocketbooks of individual directors and officers. And Lerach said he has been assured that his pension fund clients will vigorously defend this fee arrangement. Furthermore, Lerach said, pension funds are eager to sue lawyers and others who assist in a fraud. “Their eyes are being opened to a lot of different things,” Lerach said. — Jason Hoppin LONDON CALLING The lord mayor of the city of London, an ambassador of sorts for London’s financial services industry, regularly meets with presidents, foreign royalty and other heads of state. California lawyers, on the other hand, are harder to meet. And that’s a pity, according to Lord Mayor Gavyn Arthur. “California law firms need a bigger presence in London if they’re going to affect policy,” Arthur said. Arthur was keynote speaker during an ABA presentation Friday on the U.K. He’s making a trek through California to encourage more representatives from industries in the state, the fifth-largest economy in the world, to add London offices. And as the first barrister to hold the office of lord mayor in some 800 years, Arthur has an affinity for lawyers. He said he wants more California law firms to pay attention to London, the U.K. and the politics of the European Union. The lord mayor of the city of London is elected annually by businesses located in an area of London similar to San Francisco’s financial district. The position dates back to the 1100s when the officeholder acted as a civilian governor. Now, the person holding the office performs administrative tasks in London’s financial district as well as acting as an official industry representative worldwide. Arthur came to California to tell law firms to start thinking more globally, particularly now that the technology industries are less concentrated in the Bay Area. “Everything came so easy in recent years,” Arthur said, referring to law firm growth during the Internet boom. With the downturn, Arthur said, he hopes California law firms will see “there’s a big world out there.” – Renee Deger THE DEATH OF DEBATE The death penalty may have become so pass� that lawyers have even lost interest in hearing it denounced. Only about 30 attorneys sat in on former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s speech to an ABA audience Saturday explaining his controversial decision to pass a moratorium on capital punishment in 2000 and then, three days before his term ended in 2003, commute the sentences of death row inmates to life in prison without parole. The Republican explained he was a long-time capital punishment advocate and had voted as a legislator to reinstate Illinois’ death penalty in 1976. He said he didn’t start to question the system until he was governor. “Until you are the person with that awesome power, you never look very carefully at the system and how the death penalty is wielded like a sword of vengeance,” Ryan told the small crowd gathered in a large conference room. Ticking through statistics on exonerations in his state, Ryan, a non-lawyer, took a shot at the profession. “I’m just a pharmacist. No offense, but that’s why I thought I was qualified to review those cases,” Ryan said. “Can you imagine me as a pharmacist filling prescriptions with 60 percent accuracy?” Ryan urged other states, and nations, to suspend executions and study their capital systems. “Is Illinois unique?” he asked. — Shannon Lafferty SOUTHERN COMFORT Mark Quinlivan feels your pain. The Justice Department’s main man in its fight against medical marijuana was in the heart of pro-pot country to defend its position that states shouldn’t be allowed to ignore federal authority. But Quinlivan said at an ABA panel that he and the Drug Enforcement Agency administrators who orchestrate the government’s hard-line position against medical pot aren’t blind to the debate about the use of the drug to help those suffering from a host of illnesses. Everyone knows people who have died from AIDS or cancer, and “none of us have a self-interest in denying a potential medicine,” Quinlivan insisted. But, he said, allowing states to pass drug laws that conflict with the Controlled Substances Act would be tantamount to allowing Southern states to ignore federal civil rights laws. — Jason Hoppin CHEERING SECTION It’s been 10 years since the ABA officially acknowledged the importance of courtroom alternatives by creating a dispute resolution section. Since then, the ABA’s newest section has also been its fastest growing, with nearly 10,000 members. “It’s really helped the profession to grow up,” says Richard Chernick, who became chair of the dispute resolution section at the ABA annual conference. Chernick, a full-time arbitrator and mediator and a vice president at JAMS, is the first California-based neutral to chair the dispute resolution section. He will head up the section for the next year. Under his stewardship, Chernick plans to devote more attention to commercial disputes. “We’ve previously been more in the family, community and small disputes area, but we’re increasingly focusing on the high end market — the commercial market.” – Alexei Oreskovic HONORING THE FAMILY The San Francisco-based Center for Families, Children & the Courts, a division of California’s Administrative Office of the Courts, beat out nine other nominees for a public service award last week, thanks to its work to make the state’s courts more accessible to families, children and self-help litigants. The ABA’s Government & Public Sector Lawyers Division bestowed the Hodson Award for Public Service on the center at a reception Friday. “They appeared to be very much an innovator in giving access to the courts, and to legal information,” said division Chairman Joseph Downey, particularly for poor people and those whose first language is something other than English. The annual award recognizes “sustained, outstanding performance or a specific and extraordinary service by a government or public sector law office,” according to the bar association’s Web site. Attorney Tina Rasnow, a coordinator for the self-help legal access center at Ventura County Superior Court who led the charge to nominate the center, said its roughly 20 lawyers and 40 staff are “constantly developing new and cutting-edge things.” Among its efforts, the Center for Families, Children & the Courts has established a model for courthouse children’s waiting rooms, and has created English and Spanish self-help legal Web sites with instructions and fill-in-the-blank pleadings. – Pam Smith

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