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FORMER BROBECK ASSOCIATE STILL UNDER STATE BAR’S MICROSCOPE Julie Freese resigned her job, quit practicing law and moved out of California after an acquaintance used privileged information from a casual conversation with her four years ago to make a profit of more than $400,000 through insider trading. Even so, the State Bar says Freese hasn’t suffered enough and should be punished more. Charges now on file with the State Bar Court accuse Freese of violating the state Business and Professions Code requiring lawyers to maintain a client’s confidence “at every peril to herself.” “That’s a central core duty of an attorney — to keep his client’s secrets,” State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel Donald Steedman said last week. “Our position is that there’s a violation and we’re confident the evidence will show how serious it is.” Freese, a UC-Davis School of Law graduate, had been a member of the California Bar for less than four months on Sept. 17, 2002, when she told acquaintance Matthew Mesplou about a merger she was working on between Cobalt Networks Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. The next day, Mesplou, a stock trader, bought Cobalt stock that netted him nearly $412,000. Mesplou was eventually placed on probation for providing false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Freese, meanwhile, resigned her job as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer for the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and went on inactive status with the State Bar on New Year’s Day 2002. According to State Bar records, she now lives in New York. Freese’s lawyer, Weinberg & Wilder partner Doron Weinberg, said last week that he can’t believe the State Bar is trying to punish his client “for what the evidence clearly shows was an inadvertent remark, a slip of the tongue.” “She didn’t intentionally disclose anything,” he said. “I don’t understand why the Bar thinks this is an issue that needs to be pursued.” The State Bar can seek discipline ranging from a mild private reproval to outright disbarment. Neither Weinberg nor Steedman would say what is being sought for Freese, but Weinberg confirmed it isn’t disbarment. Currently, Weinberg said, Freese is working as a legal intern. In the Matter of Freese, 207001, will be prosecuted by State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel Sherrie McLetchie. — Mike McKee NEW TORT COMMITTEE FORMED When San Francisco Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens assigned jurists to the court’s standing committees last month, she had one more table to fill. The PJ has added a new asbestos litigation group to the list, which this year includes 16 committees that will address topics ranging from the civil grand jury to the court’s social events. “This county gets an extraordinary number of asbestos cases,” said Judge Tomar Mason, one of the committee’s 10 members. It’s probably been at least five years since the court looked at most of the general orders, or local rules, that guide asbestos cases through the court, Hitchens said. She expects the new committee will review those general orders, plus work on ideas to nudge some cases toward earlier settlement, she said. “I’d just become the PJ when I’d formed the committees last year,” Hitchens said, “so I didn’t have the bigger picture.” — Pam Smith JUDICIAL ROAD TRIP Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric Taylor got what he expects to be an exhausting year as president of the California Judges Association off to a busy start last month when he spent several days on the road visiting colleagues. Taylor hit Marin, Santa Clara and San Diego counties in a three-day stint that he said involved a lot of driving. “It’s the 75th anniversary of our organization. I felt that it was important the president of the association go out and meet the members to hear what [they] want and expect � in the next 25 years,” Taylor said. Taylor decided to take the trip when he was installed as president in November. Although he said it’s unrealistic to hit all 58 counties, he’s already talked to judges in some of the biggest jurisdictions and hopes to meet more in the coming weeks. To try to keep tour costs down, Taylor said he’ll try to set up appointments when he’s already in areas on other business. During the Judicial Council’s February meeting in San Francisco, for example, he plans to speak to judges and court executives in Sonoma and Alameda counties. As might be expected, the No. 1 concern from judges is the state budget crisis, Taylor said. While president, the judge will also maintain a criminal trial calendar in Los Angeles. Taylor said he depends on his combination cell phone and personal data assistant to help him keep everything straight. It serves as his calendar and will even give him directions as he drives. “I live with this thing,” he said. The CJA represents nearly all of California’s approximately 2,000 sitting judicial officers and most of the state’s 850 retired judges, according to the CJA. — Jeff Chorney

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