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MORGAN, LEWIS OKS PENNIE PARTNERS Morgan, Lewis & Bockius voted Wednesday to bring in eight partners from Pennie & Edmonds and expects to hire 15 to 20 Pennie associates in January. The Pennie group includes the seven remaining partners in the firm’s Palo Alto office and one partner, Victor Balancia, from the firm’s Washington, D.C., outpost. Morgan, Lewis said it is extending offers to Pennie associates and staff and expects that 15 to 20 additional lawyers and approximately 25 staff will join its Palo Alto ranks in January. The firm also expects a team of lawyers who work with Balancia to join its Washington, D.C., office. The Pennie partners joining Morgan, Lewis in Silicon Valley are Andrew Gray IV, Thomas Kohler, Michael Lyons, Frank Morris, David Owens, Gary Williams and Andrew Wu. The partners will join Morgan, Lewis on Jan. 1. Pennie & Edmonds has been looking for a merger partner for about two years and most recently resumed discussions with Jones Day. While individual partners from the New York intellectual property firm have joined Jones Day, the two apparently could not work out a merger deal. Morgan, Lewis scored a coup in snagging the Palo Alto patent group, one of the most sought after specialties. “We are very focused on building a substantial presence in technology,” said Thomas Kellerman, managing partner of Morgan, Lewis’ Palo Alto office. “This is a great way for the firm to get a deep foothold. It’s also a great complement to other things we do.” Philadelphia-based Morgan, Lewis opened shop in California when it hired 153 lawyers from Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Brobeck disbanded in February after its merger discussions with Morgan, Lewis collapsed. Excluding the Pennie hires, Morgan, Lewis now has 220 lawyers in its four California offices. — Brenda Sandburg MAINSTREAMING FOR DISABLED CHILD GRANTED PHILADELPHIA — In a ruling hailed as a victory for disabled children, a federal judge has ruled that a 4-year-old child with Down syndrome must be “mainstreamed” at the preschool level at least temporarily and that, after an initial trial period, Pennsylvania education officials must put the burden on the school district to prove that a non-mainstream placement is more appropriate. In his 28-page decision in Blount v. Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson found that the Pennsylvania hearing officer misapplied the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act when he ordered a segregated educational placement for Gavin Blount. Under IDEA, Baylson said, the hearing officer “must consider whether the IU has met its burden of proof that it has attempted to mainstream Gavin to the fullest extent possible with supplemental aids and services, before the hearing officer determines that it is necessary that Gavin be removed from mainstreaming.” Attorney Kelly Darr of the Education Law Center, who represents the Blount family, said “this ruling is especially significant because it supports the trend toward mainstreaming preschool children with disabilities.” Darr said children with disabilities “have a much better chance of doing well if they are mainstreamed, and school officials should start with the presumption that most of these kids can be included.” — The Legal Intelligencer VOLUNTEER LAWYERS NEEDED FOR 9/11 CLAIMS NEW YORK — As the final day to file claims with the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund draws near, the organization in charge of pairing victims with pro bono attorneys is scrambling for new volunteers. John Bailey, the executive director of Trial Lawyers Care, said 72 claimants sought volunteer attorneys from his office last month, compared with 55 in October. Seventeen more have come to the group in the first two days of December. As the Dec. 22 deadline looms, the pro bono group, started by the American Trial Lawyers Association, has found that its supply of attorneys has run dangerously low. “We have no idea how many people are going to come in the door the last month,” said Bailey, who has been directing the organization for four months. “It’s becoming a shortage crisis.” About 1,000 trial attorneys from across the country have volunteered to represent victims and their families who are seeking compensation from the federal fund, Bailey said. Those attorneys have been assigned to more than 1,500 claimants so far, with numerous attorneys taking on more than one case. Just two weeks ago, Bailey said, ATLA rounded up about 60 of its members to volunteer, and Trial Lawyers Care was able to reduce its backlog of claimants to zero. Attorneys can sign up with the group at www.911lawhelp.org. — The New York Law Journal WORLDCOM AUDIT CLAIMS DISMISSED NEW YORK — A federal judge Wednesday dismissed claims accusing the audit committee of WorldCom Inc.’s board of directors of abandoning their oversight responsibilities amid the telecommunication company’s massive fraud. Southern District Judge Denise Cote, in the consolidated class actions brought by investors over the collapse of WorldCom’s stock price and ultimate bankruptcy, said allegations against four of the directors “reveal at most an Audit Committee that accepted too readily the reports given to it by management,” an internal audit committee, and outsider auditor, Arthur Andersen. The board’s audit committee was “anemic in its oversight function,” she said. “There is simply no adequate basis to infer from the allegations” that the directors themselves “were aware or must have been aware of the accounting fraud at WorldCom,” Judge Cote said in In Re WorldCom, Inc. Securities Litigation, 02 Civ. 3288. She dismissed a claim of securities fraud brought against directors James Allen, Judith Areen, Francesco Galesi and audit committee chair Max Bobbitt. The charge, brought under § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, alleged that WorldCom’s multibillion-dollar capital expenditure fraud would have been discovered at least eight months earlier if the directors had properly monitored the company’s financial reporting and the auditing of both Anderson and the internal audit committee. — The New York Law Journal

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