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News: With Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Aldo Girolami having bowed out, the Administrative Office of the Courts assigns the Scott Peterson murder case to retired Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason, 82. Comment: The state’s judicial retirement system — currently $4.3 million in the red — is deliberately structured to encourage judges to retire by the time they reach their mid-60s. Given that the state is entrusting its highest-profile trial of the year to an octogenarian and that clients routinely pay $5,000 a day or more for 70-something private judges, isn’t it high time the state raise the retirement age? News: The Peterson case is expected to generate the same intense media scrutiny as the O.J. Simpson, Cary Stayner and Noel/Knoller dog mauling trials. Comment: Why would any judge agree to take this trial? Judge Lance Ito was pilloried for his handling of the O.J. trial. Judge Thomas Hastings was slammed by the media for closing his courtroom during Stayner’s jury selection. By the end of the dog mauling trial Judge James Warren had to hold a contempt hearing for both the prosecution and the defense. And now, after enjoying 24 hours of glowing media coverage, Judge Arnason has been kicked off the Peterson case by the prosecution. News: Plaintiffs attorneys in the state’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. request fees and costs totaling — are you sitting down? — $258 million. Lead counsel Townsend and Townsend and Crew asks for $97 million, proposing a multiplier of 5.75 due in part to the risk of taking on the corporate goliath. Comment: It’s true that Townsend and partner Eugene Crew did substantial work on the case, obtaining class certification, for example, and fighting back a less valuable settlement deal negotiated by other plaintiffs firms on the case. But risky? Consider 1) that Townsend didn’t file its case until two days after the first phase of testimony had ended in the Justice Department’s federal antitrust case against Microsoft — Bill Gates’ notorious deposition meltdown was already in the record, 2) some 20 other plaintiffs firms filed their own suits, despite the enormous “risk,” 3) Crew was saying publicly that the case was worth $9 billion as recently as 2002 — he and the other plaintiffs settled for $1 billion in vouchers rather than cash, and 4) the suit was brought under California Business & Professions Code �17200, which is about as risky for plaintiffs lawyers as inflation-adjusted treasury bonds. Dropping that multiplier from 5.75 to 1.75 sounds about right. News: The California Supreme Court takes up the heart-tugging case of a foster child who — due to a legal technicality — lost out on his inheritance despite having had a close relationship with his foster father for 45 years. After briefing and argument, however, the court concludes 7-0 that the legal technicality must stand. Comment: Sorry, kiddo, that’ll be another $50K in legal fees. Maybe the court will do a little more research before it decides to embark on its next rescue mission. News: The Administrative Office of the Courts announces that U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has washed her hands of the Zacarias Moussaoui terrorism case, and that it has been reassigned to retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Paul Teilh, 87. Comment: I’m just making that up. News: Miller, Starr & Regalia loses a summary judgment motion and may have to go to trial in a malpractice case that could be worth as much as $11 million. The Walnut Creek firm is accused of sloppy work on a real estate deal involving Kmart, leaving its two clients on the hook for large lease payments after Kmart went bankrupt. Comment: This could be a very interesting trial. The plaintiffs will hammer the fact that Miller, Starr presents itself as a preeminent real estate law firm, while Miller, Starr will say that nobody would have foreseen Kmart going bankrupt when the deal was done a decade ago. I hope this case isn’t entrusted to one of those greenhorn active judges. Hopefully, there’s a retired one available to hear it.

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