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GEORGE TO FIND OUT IF TOO MANY CHIEFS SPOIL THE CITY Chief Justice Ronald George and the staff over at the Hiram Johnson State Office Building are getting ready to show off the city next week to dozens of chief justices from around the country. As this year’s president of the Conference of Chief Justices, George is hosting the group’s biannual gathering. There will be meetings and educational sessions, many of which will be open to the public. More than 40 of the 50-plus chief justices in the group are expected to show up. (There are more than 50 because, in addition to the chiefs from each state, there are also judicial leaders from the District of Columbia, the commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands and the territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands.) The three-day meeting officially opens Monday, but George said his hosting duties start Sunday. He also expects some of the chiefs may show up early to tour San Francisco. The conference last met in California in the mid-1990s. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Gavin Newsom are scheduled to make opening remarks. Although it’s not on the agenda, one topic among the chiefs will probably be budget problems. California’s problems are among the worst, but the state is by no means alone. George said he’s looking forward to exchanging ideas with the other chiefs, who bring ideas from across the United States, where each essentially presides over his or her own “social laboratory.” “It’s a lot of work, but we really gain a lot from this,” George said. — Jeff Chorney MILK MONEY Italian dairy firm Parmalat is already in a heap of trouble with Italian prosecutors, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has sued the company, alleging it misled American investors. Now, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach is jumping on the dogpile, suing the company for what the plaintiffs firm calls “one of the largest financial frauds ever perpetrated.” Filed in federal court in New York, the suit is the latest in the growing pile of complaints against foreign companies that raise capital in the United States. Late last year, Parmalat revealed that nearly $5 billion in assets the company had said was kept in a Cayman Islands bank account did not, in fact, exist. The revelation has led to an ever-widening scandal in Italy, Parmalat Finanziaria SpA’s home country — even the entire board of Parma AG, the two-time European soccer champions owned by Parmalat, have resigned. Milberg Weiss alleges that the company committed fraud with the help of lawyers and accountants, including those at auditors Deloitte & Touche and Grant Thornton Intl. The case is being handled by partners William Lerach and Darren Robbins, part of the West Coast branch of Milberg Weiss that is breaking away from the East Coast operation. The company has not yet answered the complaint. — Jason Hoppin TIME TO SETTLE Come summertime, civil trial judges in San Francisco won’t be allowed to schedule settlement conferences at a whim anymore. In a break from current practice, they’re being told to fall in line and adhere to an across-the-board schedule. Civil settlement conferences have long been scheduled “pretty much just whenever a judge wanted,” said Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens. But accommodating all those preferences has overloaded the court’s staff, which has been stretched thin by budget cuts, she said. So come June 1, those settlement conferences will be set at either 8:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., or on Wednesday afternoons, according to a Jan. 6 memo the PJ sent to civil trial judges. The June changes will also attempt to distribute the burden of settlement conferences more evenly, Hitchens said. While some civil trial judges do a maximum of three settlement conferences a week now and others do five, she said, the court is changing that to a maximum of four per week for everyone. — Pam Smith SOUTH BAY JUDICIAL RACES The Santa Clara County Bar Association is endorsing Teresa Guerrero-Daley, San Jose’s independent police auditor, in the March judicial election. SCCBA is holding a runoff to determine whom to back in the race for a second seat. Guerrero-Daley garnered 165 votes, or 43 percent of SCCBA members’ votes, to win the endorsement. Mountain View civil attorney William Monahan received 130 votes, which amounted to 34 percent of the vote. Eighteen voters chose “none qualified” and 68 abstained. SCCBA will ask members to vote again on whether to endorse San Jose civil attorney Lance Burrow and Santa Clara Deputy District Attorney Griffin Bonini for the second seat. Burrow received 115 votes, or 30 percent. According to SCCBA rules, a candidate must receive 40 percent of the vote to win the endorsement. Bonini received 103 votes, or 27 percent. Santa Clara Deputy Public Defender Enrique Colin, who received 88 votes, or 23 percent of the vote, will not be included on the runoff ballot. None qualified received 13 votes, and 63 voters abstained. – Shannon Lafferty

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