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Strauss Honored Robert Strauss, a founding partner in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, was one of 12 lawyers honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards in the Law by The American Lawyer, an affiliate of Texas Lawyer. The American Lawyer presented the awards at an event on April 28 in New York celebrating the magazine’s 25 years in publication. The magazine says Strauss rose from local prominence in Dallas to become one of Washington, D.C.’s “most influential power brokers.” Strauss, now a partner in Akin Gump’s office in D.C., founded the firm in 1945 in Dallas. It now has 950 lawyers in 15 offices. Strauss has a long history of public service — serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1973 to 1976, as chairman of then-President Jimmy Carter’s election campaigns in 1976 and 1980, as special trade representative to Japan during Carter’s administration and as a representative of the president in Middle East peace talks. In 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, appointed him U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. Strauss says he’s most proud of his ability to “maintain as a strong Democrat” despite earning appointments from Democrats and Republicans. “That pleases me,” notes Strauss, who says he tells his grandchildren that credibility is a worthy goal. He says he is flattered to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. “I couldn’t be more pleased and I was delighted to have a Texan in there with all of my Eastern friends. It was nice for our firm,” he says. Strauss, 85, says he’s recovering from hip replacement surgery but goes into the office to work for three or four hours each day. “I can still make a difference,” he says. To Seal or Not to Seal Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals held in Monsanto Co., et al. v. Davis, et al. on April 21 that a letter allegedly misdirected via fax to an attorney for plaintiffs suing Monsanto Co. does not need to be sealed by the court. Chief Justice Tom Graywrote that if the letter is a court record, Monsanto failed to prove why it should be sealed. If the letter is not a court record, Monsanto’s request to seal it under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 76a fails because the rule pertains only to the sealing or unsealing of court records, Gray wrote. Justices Bill Vanceand Felipe Reynajoined in the opinion. The dispute over the letter erupted in 2002 when Joe Longley, an attorney for a group of farmers who filed a class-action against Monsanto for allegedly charging them excessive fees on genetically engineered cotton seed, says he received the letter twice by fax. Robert Corn, Monsanto’s attorney, contends the letter was sent unintentionally. In the letter, Corn evaluates issues involved if Monsanto were to withdraw from a Texas Civil Procedure Rule 11 agreement with members of the Davis class. [ See "Dueling Class Actions: Defense Claims Plaintiffs Counsel Should've Returned "Misdirected' Letter,"Texas Lawyer , June 17, 2002, page 1.] “We sort of backhandedly strike a blow for open records,” Longley says of the 10th Court’s ruling. Corn, a Houston solo, says he doesn’t think the letter matters anymore because the 10th Court reversed the 82nd District Court’s certification of the Davis class in December 2002, and the Texas Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for review in 2003. The farmers’ individual suits against Monsanto are pending in the 82nd District Court. Just Following Orders Harriette Kelton, a 97-year-old Highland Park resident, is the mother of Dallas County 44th District Court Judge David Keltonand the widow of Phil Kelton, a founding partner of Dallas’ Strasburger & Price. But neither her age nor her family’s legal connections mattered in late April when two Highland Park Department of Public Safety officers stopped her vehicle and discovered she had an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to pay a traffic ticket. Harriette Kelton had allowed an inspection sticker and her vehicle’s registration to expire. The officers handcuffed, arrested and took the near-centenarian to jail. Her imprisonment, which lasted two hours, triggered national headlines. But Highland Park officials are not contrite. “A warrant begins with the words “you are hereby commanded to arrest,’ ” detective Randy Millican, Highland Park’s public information officer, told the Dallas Morning News. “ How do you decide who do you arrest and who you don’t? How about at age 90 but not at 91 and up? . . . It’s an order from a court to make an arrest, so discretion goes out the window,” Millican told the newspaper. He did not return Texas Lawyer’s telephone calls seeking comment before presstime on April 29. A retired teacher, Kelton says her eldest son, Dr. Phil Kelton Jr., called his attorney, Dallas solo Bobby Kolenovsky, to handle the paperwork for her release on a personal bond. Kolenovsky confirms that he was retained on the matter but declines further comment. Dr. Kelton also declines comment. Kelton’s younger son, Judge Kelton, also declines to comment, other than to say, “Certainly I have personal feelings, but I’ve got to be constrained and restrained because for me to comment someone might think I was using my office to influence matters.” Says Harriette Kelton, “I was treated like a common criminal. It was ridiculous.” However, she notes she often is told she looks younger than 97. Pro Bono Win A team of pro bono attorneys from Washington, D.C.’s Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobsonhas won a reversal of a Texas death row inmate’s conviction. In a 2-1 opinion in Soffar v. Dretke on April 21, a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned Max Soffar’s conviction on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, ordering him released from prison unless he undergoes a new trial within 120 days of the date the opinion was issued. A spokesman with the Texas Office of the Attorney Generalsays the state will ask the full court to rehear the case. Soffar was convicted of a 1980 armed robbery in Houston that left three people dead. Soffar confessed to the police, according to the opinion, but his appellate attorneys say Soffar fabricated the confession thinking he could trade information to avoid going to prison for an unrelated crime � stealing a motorcycle. Soffar’s appellate attorneys contended that Soffar’s trial counsel, the late Joe Cannonof Houston, failed to interview the surviving witness of the crime and failed to challenge the police ballistics tests in the case, prejudicing Soffar’s ability to get a fair trial. “In order to establish prejudice, Soffar need only show that had his defense counsel conducted an adequate pretrial investigation . . . there is a reasonable probability that the jury’s verdict would have been different.” wrote 5th Circuit Judge Harold R. DeMossJr. “Soffar has met this burden.” “The facts make the case,” says James H. Schropp, a corporate partner in Fried Frank who led Soffar’s appellate team. The firm donated more than $1 million in time and expenses to the case. [ See "More Than Meets the Eye"Texas Lawyer , Jan. 27, 2003, page 1.] “Without the facts you can’t make the case.”

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