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17200 BILL FAILS IN 11TH- HOUR VOTE SACRAMENTO — The plaintiffs bar’s proposal to modify the state unfair competition law has failed, opening the stage for a business-backed ballot initiative as early as next year. SB 122, by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Montebello, got only 35 votes out of the 41 needed to pass out of the Assembly, despite intense lobbying by the trial lawyers through their association, the Consumer Attorneys of California. The bill was part of a two-bill package designed to address the concerns of small businesses, mostly in Southern California, that were sued under the unfair competition statute, Business & Professions Code � 17200. Even though the trial lawyers assured legislators that their proposal would stop abuses under the law, the business community said the package didn’t go far enough and would not protect them from what some call “shakedown lawsuits.” Some members of the business community have vowed to put an initiative on the ballot to modify 17200 if the Legislature failed to take action. The trial lawyers said they would respond with their own measure targeting business abuses. — Jeff Chorney WETMORE RE-ELECTED CHAIRMAN AT MOFO Keith Wetmore will continue as chairman of Morrison & Foerster for a second three-year term, the firm announced at its partnership meeting last week. The firm’s points committee, which determines partner compensation, polled the partners six months ago, and they agreed to reappoint Wetmore for another term. Since Wetmore took the helm in October 2000, MoFo has opened offices in Century City, McLean, Va., and, more recently, in Shanghai. “For better or worse, the main attribute of the last couple of years has been riding out the historic downturn in markets where we’ve been active without resorting to broad across-the-board headcount reductions,” Wetmore said. During his next term, Wetmore said MoFo would continue to look at opportunities for “expanding our national litigation footprint, deepening our offerings in New York, particularly the finance practice, and building California’s company client base.” Nicholas Spiliotes, a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, was also selected to head MoFo’s business department. He succeeds San Francisco partner Robert Townsend who has held the post since 1996. During Townsend’s tenure the business department doubled from 225 attorneys to 458. At the same time, MoFo elevated two litigation of counsel to partner. Craig Martin, who represents clients in SEC investigations, securities class actions and other complex litigation, was promoted in the San Francisco office, and Jonathan Bach, who focuses on white-collar criminal defense and regulatory enforcement actions, joined the partnership ranks in New York. — Brenda Sandburg TRAFFIC COMMISSIONER A solo practitioner from Napa filled the last vacant commissioner’s post on the San Francisco Superior Court bench this month. Commissioner Frank Drago began presiding over traffic and quality-of-life infractions in Department A at the Hall of Justice on Sept. 2. The general civil litigator became acquainted with his responsibilities while serving part time as a pro tem commissioner in San Francisco and Marin superior courts. He gained experience with traffic and small claims cases in both jurisdictions, and also presided over some criminal matters in Marin, he said. Drago had been practicing as a solo attorney in Napa for several years, he said, and prior to that was a partner at Ballati, Carbone & Drago in San Francisco and Napa. The 1975 University of San Francisco School of Law graduate, now one of the court’s two traffic commissioners, took the place of former Commissioner Richard Best, who retired in March. San Francisco judges voted to appoint Drago in late August. Though the commissioners’ seats are now full in San Francisco, the court still has two vacant judge positions. — Pam Smith JAMS OPENS SECOND NEW YORK CITY OFFICE Dispute resolution provider JAMS has opened a second office in New York City and lured a veteran litigation partner from Baker & McKenzie to head up its arbitration practice. Robert Davidson will become the executive director of the arbitration practice at JAMS on Oct. 11, after a 32-year career at Baker & McKenzie, where Davidson has practiced since graduating from law school. Davidson has focused on arbitration throughout his career, participating as a lawyer and a neutral in various international dispute resolution proceedings. He served as lead counsel in 11 cases before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, as well as in cases before the International Chamber of Commerce and the U.N. Claims Commission. Over the past couple years, Davidson said he’s been asked more and more to sit as an arbitrator, with roughly 30 percent of his fees this year coming from such assignments. The size of Baker & McKenzie, which counts more than 3,000 lawyers, made it increasingly difficult to avoid conflicts, Davidson said. And after three decades at Baker & McKenzie, Davidson said he was looking for a new challenge. While JAMS already has an office in Manhattan, the firm’s new midtown office will offer a closer location for the law firms and businesses based there. — Alexei Oreskovic

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