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COMMITTEE OKS 17200 PROPOSAL SACRAMENTO — The Consumer Attorneys of California persuaded the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday to move ahead with a bill to modify the state’s unfair competition law. Now the measure, SB 122, which is part of a two-bill package that includes AB 95, will go to Assembly Appropriations. From there, it would head to the floor, where it still faces opposition from Republicans. It’s unclear if moderate Democrats will join that opposition. Although the bill was significantly amended in the past two weeks to reduce opposition, a leading moderate, Assemblyman John Dutra, D-Fremont, still voted against it in committee Monday. The trial lawyers say their proposal reforms the unfair competition law, Business & Professions Code § 17200, but a coalition of tort reformers and businesses say the proposed changes will not lessen the possibility of unfair lawsuits against small businesses. Hanging over this year’s debate has been the threat of a tort reform-sponsored ballot initiative to modify the controversial law. On Monday, Consumer Attorneys President Bruce Brusavich said he was confident his group could defeat such an attempt to skirt the Legislature and would probably respond by filing its own initiative. Besides SB 122, the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to look at two other trial lawyer bills Monday, but those measures have been delayed. One would change civil procedure in auto personal injury cases, but the idea has been shelved until next year because of privacy concerns. The trial lawyers would like the other, a proposal on liens in Medi-Cal cases, to come before the Assembly Judiciary this week but, as of late Monday, no hearing had been scheduled. — Jeff Chorney OPT-OUT PLAINTIFFS MUST PAY LAWYERS PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge has ruled that a group of plaintiffs who recently opted out of an antitrust class action in order to pursue their own claims must set aside a percentage of any settlement or judgment they win to compensate the team of plaintiffs lawyers who worked on the case for more than five years. “This case warrants the establishment of a system to ensure that designated counsel are compensated for their efforts in managing the litigation,” Senior U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois wrote in In re Linerboard Antitrust Litigation. The ruling is a huge victory for plaintiffs’ attorneys Howard Langer of Golomb Honik & Langer and Eugene Spector of Spector Roseman & Kodroff, who were appointed lead counsel in a class action brought by purchasers of corrugated paper products that accused paper manufacturers of conspiring to decrease their production so that supply would plummet and prices would rise. In recent months, a slew of big-name plaintiffs have opted out of the class and filed their own suits, including Proctor & Gamble Co., Kellogg Co., Sara Lee Corp., Coca-Cola Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., General Mills Corp. and Hallmark Cards Inc. DuBois found that the opt-out plaintiffs have benefited from the years of work already done by the lead lawyers. — The Legal Intelligencer 11TH CIRCUIT REVERSAL COMES AS A SHOCK ATLANTA — Civil rights lawyers around the country shook their heads in amazement last week when they learned of a recent decision on the issue of qualified immunity by the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court Appeals. In the case of Vaughan v. Cox, 00-14380, a three-judge panel on Aug. 29 reversed itself after twice finding immunity for a police officer sued for shooting a fleeing suspect in a high-speed car chase. Given the Eleventh Circuit’s reputation as a sympathetic court to law enforcement, the about-face in favor of the plaintiff was surprising enough. But what shocked court watchers was that the panel acted on its own, without any motions by either side in the case and without any prompting by the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the justices seemingly had put the issue to rest June 2, when they denied the plaintiff’s petition to review the Eleventh Circuit’s latest decision in the matter. “I had completely given up,” said Jeffrey Dean, the Dalton, Ga., lawyer who represents Jerry Charles Vaughan, the suspect who was paralyzed in 1998 when the officer shot him during a car chase. But when Dean returned from the Labor Day weekend, he received a congratulatory call from a lawyer telling him the case had been revived. Eleventh Circuit Senior Judge Emmett Ripley Cox, Judge Edward Carnes and, visiting from the Ninth Circuit, Senior Judge John Noonan Jr. had vacated, sua sponte, their previous two rulings and substituted a new one. — Fulton County Daily Report

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