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Dennis Maio, a fixture at the California Supreme Court for two decades while working with former Justice Stanley Mosk and most recently for Chief Justice Ronald George, has left for private practice. In a move that surprised many at the courthouse, Maio, also director of the court’s capital central staff, which handles death penalty cases, joined Reed Smith’s appellate division as an of counsel. He starts today. Maio was out of town and not available for comment. But the chief justice said he had been aware for some time that Maio had been toying with the idea of returning to private practice. “He had considered leaving when Justice Mosk passed away,” in 2001, George said Friday. “I prevailed upon him to stay and set up our new capital central staff, so he agreed. Then [recently] he got an offer that was too good to refuse, and he sort of felt if he was ever going to do [this], it was now or never.” “It will be a great loss,” George said, “but, of course, I can understand.” Reed Smith partner and appellate lawyer Paul Fogel said he was “delighted” that Maio chose Reed Smith and that he knew Maio had “standing offers” from other firms. “Dennis has been one of the California Supreme Court’s most prodigious staff attorneys and one of its most valuable resources,” Fogel said. “He has a very impressive, active and scholarly background, and his knowledge of the inner workings of the court will be a tremendous benefit to our clients and attorneys.” Maio’s academic pedigree is impressive. He got an undergraduate degree in classics from Fordham College in 1971, then received master’s degrees in Greek in 1973 and in Latin in 1974 from UC-Berkeley. In 1977, he earned a doctorate in the classics at Berkeley and four years later got his J.D. from Yale Law School. After he joined the court in the mid �80s, Maio served for 17 years as a member of Justice Mosk’s staff, working on opinions and memoranda in pending cases and in petitions for review. Upon Mosk’s death, Maio joined George’s staff as a research attorney and took on the job with the capital central staff, preparing memos and opinions in death penalty post-conviction matters. George said Maio was officially half time in both positions, but that he worked so hard and accomplished so much, it was as if he was full time in both jobs. Maio’s work ethic was almost legendary. Hal Cohen, the court’s chief supervising attorney, called Maio a “prodigious worker.” “No one can really keep up with him. Actually, people don’t even try after a while,” said Cohen, adding that he was “stunned” by Maio’s announcement. His departure is “a real loss to the court.” Kathy Banke, leader of Reed Smith’s appellate practice group, said Maio’s presence would “add immeasurably” to the firm’s appellate abilities. “It speaks volumes about the quality of Reed Smith’s appellate work,” she said, “that someone who has been a consumer of the firm’s appellate briefs and arguments over the past 20 years would choose Reed Smith as the place to return to private practice.” Although Maio couldn’t be reached, he said in a prepared statement that he valued Reed Smith’s “tradition” of civil appellate practice. “The appellate team does phenomenally good work, and that work is both recognized and valued by the firm,” he said. “That is the kind of team and environment I want to be part of now that I am leaving the court.” Chief Justice George said Maio’s job as director of the capital central staff will be taken over by Kaye Reeves, a research attorney on the staff of Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. Two people have been named to fill the vacancy left by Maio on George’s research attorney staff. According to George, they are Melissa Johnson, the chief deputy director of the Administrative Office of the Courts’ office of general counsel, and Inna Katsen, a former associate with Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin. Johnson starts March 8 and Katsen on March 15. George said Maio was treated to lunch and an afternoon farewell party Tuesday.

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