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STEP RIGHT UP — TAXPAYER ADVOCATE PUTS MONEY WHERE MOUTH IS Doug Heller wasn’t surprised to find himself alone in the Capitol rotunda at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning while legislators got ready to vote on a mammoth bill to reform California’s workers’ compensation system. That was the time Heller, executive director of the rabble-rousing Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, had picked for his “I Read It and I Get It” contest, which challenged lawmakers to prove they had read the workers’ comp bill before voting. In his challenge, Heller said he would give $1,000 to a legislator’s favorite charity if they signed a statement saying they had read all of the bill and could answer 10 questions about it. Needless to say, no one showed up. “Either politicians should demonstrate that they know what’s in the bill or they should not be voting on it,” Heller said. Otherwise, Californians end up with something like the 1996 energy deregulation, another hastily concocted legislative deal that has been bad for consumers, Heller said. Heller issued his challenge after lawmakers announced they had reached a compromise with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the time they voted Friday, Heller said, the final version of the bill had been in print for less than 48 hours. That, according to Heller, is bad democracy. The measure, negotiated mostly in secret and under threat of a voter initiative, was not subject to the public scrutiny bills are supposed to get, Heller said. Besides that, Heller doubted any legislator had slogged through the 70-plus page bill. “There’s the potential for so many loopholes and so many problems,” Heller said. “Even if we believed that the bill contained the real elements of reform — which we don’t — it’s totally inappropriate to jam a bill through like this.” — Jeff Chorney LIFE SCIENCES AND LAWYERS Fenwick & West partner Barry Kramer is used to toiling long hours on VC and M&A deals. So he was surprised to find himself fatigued after teaching a 90-minute course at UCSF’s Center for BioEntrepreneurship last year. “You’re on absolutely every minute [in front of] 70 very accomplished people,” Kramer said. “There’s an intensity to it. I like it very much.” Kramer and Fenwick partners Lynn Pasahow and Michael Shuster are teaching “A Life Scientist’s Guide to Intellectual Property” to UCSF researchers, medical students and professors for the second year in a row. Among their students are inventors of life-saving medical devices and drugs. The lawyers are examining the role IP licensing plays in taking inventions from the laboratory to the marketplace. K.T. Moortgat, director of the Center for BioEntrepreneurship, said UCSF is lucky to have the practitioners on board. “Training our life scientists when and how to protect their intellectual property makes it possible for them to take those steps to build market and public value from the invention,” she said. Moortgat said attendee feedback has been excellent. The course is so popular that it doubled in size from about 35 last year and is now held in a large lecture hall. The University of California is a long-time Fenwick & West client. Pasahow, an IP litigator, has represented UC in the enforcement of patents for fish DNA detection, medical devices and other inventions. Shuster was a post-doctoral biochemist at UCSF for six years before entering the legal field. UCSF’s Center for BioEntrepreneurship opened two years ago and may be the only program in the country to offer a life sciences IP course, Moortgat said. “We’re very lucky to have these gentlemen teaching this class.” — Adrienne Sanders TRY, TRY AGAIN After former UCLA medical school student P. Peter Pirouzkar won nearly $2.1 million in damages in a wrongful termination suit, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Andria Richey asked the plaintiff to accept a much smaller award. Pirouzkar refused, and the judge, who felt the evidence didn’t support such a hefty monetary verdict, ordered a new trial. On Thursday, L.A.’s Second District Court of Appeal affirmed Richey, even though the justices believed UCLA could have done more to keep Pirouzkar, who is disabled, in its medical residency program. “It would surely be possible to weigh the damages evidence and conclude that the damages should have been lower,” Justice Orville Armstrong wrote, “and weigh the liability evidence and find a failure to accommodate a disability under the statute.” Justices Paul Turner and Margaret Grignon concurred. Pirouzkar joined the UCLA Preventive Medicine Residency program in 1998, but was dismissed a year later when his superiors decided he wasn’t working out. Pirouzkar accused the school of wrongful termination and said there had been no attempt to accommodate him for problems associated with a chronic muscular disorder and for post-traumatic stress syndrome. While living in Iran and Turkey, Pirouzkar said that he had been beaten, incarcerated and threatened with death. As a result of his dismissal, Pirouzkar claimed he suffered from depression that made it impossible to find work or move forward on getting his medical license. While the appeal court was sympathetic toward Pirouzkar, saying that there was no evidence that the school had made sufficient efforts to accommodate him, the justices said he, too, shared some of the blame. “There was evidence that plaintiff could have worked if he had sought and received treatment,” Armstrong wrote, “and that he had transferable skills which could have earned him a reasonable income.” The justices also agreed with the trial court judge that the jury’s damages were far too high. Instead of being awarded $377,000 in economic damages, they said, Pirouzkar should have gotten about $36,000, which would equal the amount he would have been paid for a year of residency at a health care facility. The justices also supported the trial court judge’s suggestion that non-economic damages be dropped from more than $1.7 million to $350,000. Evidence showed, the court held, that many of Pirouzkar’s psychological problems “were longstanding and were caused by experiences far worse than an unsuccessful graduate school program.” The unpublished ruling is Pirouzkar v. Regents of the University of California, B161327. — Mike McKee

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