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Rating law firms Quick! Name an Alabama firm with an outstanding real estate practice. Who’s the best bet for antitrust work in Los Angeles? How about general commercial litigators in Utah? April has come and gone, and with it the annual debate about U.S. News and World Report‘s ranking of law schools. Does everything have a rating? Is it demeaning to rank hallowed institutions as if they were suburban Thai restaurants? And aside from the propriety, how accurate can such tournaments be? We can answer the first group of questions: It’s a tie between the Birmingham firms of Bradley Arant Rose & White and Burr & Forman for Alabama real estate expertise; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher gets the nod for antitrust work in Los Angeles; and Salt Lake City’s Bendinger Crockett Peterson Greenwood & Casey beats out the carpetbaggers from Snell & Wilmer when it comes to Utah litigators. At least according to the people who produce the Chambers USA 2004-2005 guide. Their Web site has a handy geographic axis (you can indicate states by name or pick general regions) and then choose practice areas. Line up “where” and “what,” and up pop the firms in order of perceived strengths and reputations, with a profile that includes major clients and celebrity partners. For the lawyers themselves, there’s a special “U” rating for “Up and Coming” and a “Senior Statesman” designation for the veterans. For the skeptics, there’s the assurance that “the methodology has been approved by the British Market Research Bureau,” which does annual audits. Some 40 researchers have been conducting 7,000 half-hour phone interviews during the past eight months to produce this template, the site says. Lennie Briscoe as artist’s muse The caption reads, “The M.E. finds road paint on the victim’s fingers.” Putting such incongruities into the format of a child’s coloring book is part of what fascinates California artist Brandon Bird, whose inspiration is the NBC television series Law and Order. He was one of several dozen artists who participated in a group show in downtown Santa Cruz, Calif., in May: “Law and Order: Artistic Intent.” Besides producing the coloring book with strong black calligraphic strokes, Bird also did some expressionistic paintings, including Lennie Briscoe and the Immaterial Witnesses. It’s all part of a societal trend toward glamorizing prosecutors, according to cultural observers, who say it started with Rudolph Giuliani. Too tough? The New York Court of Appeals last week suspended Troy City Judge Henry R. Bauer, who is targeted for removal by the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Earlier this year, the commission determined in a split decision that Bauer should be removed from office for repeatedly violating the rights of criminal defendants by setting high bails, neglecting the right to counsel and coercing guilty pleas. Bauer, 45, is challenging the commission’s determination in an appeal as of right to the Court of Appeals. He had issued a statement claiming that he has served the court well, and in addition to moving cases along fairly, he has created special courts for hearing drug and domestic violence cases. Bauer, a Republican, said the proceeding was politically biased against him. Among other things he was sanctioned for was the jailing of a man on $25,000 bail for riding his bicycle on a sidewalk without lights. According to the conduct commission’s 60-page report, the bicyclist was a long-time resident with no prior record who spent a week in jail, then returned to court without a lawyer and agreed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct. On May 11, the Court of Appeals on its own motion suspended Bauer with pay pending the appeal.

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