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California changes client confidentiality rule California soon will join every other state in the nation by freeing lawyers to violate a client’s confidentiality if they believe doing so could prevent injury or death to another person. While most praise the concept as a good move long overdue, some lawyers fear it could be the first step toward undermining state laws holding that the confidentiality of attorney-client relationships is inviolate. The new disclosure law broadens the state’s Evidence Code by providing that the attorney-client privilege can be broken when a lawyer “reasonably believes” that disclosure is necessary to prevent a criminal act by any person, including a client, that could result in death or substantial injury. The law, passed by the California Legislature last year but not effective until July 1, makes disclosure discretionary, not mandatory. Florida high court to review tobacco verdict In a setback for the tobacco industry, the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to review a 2003 decision by the state’s intermediate-level District Court of Appeal that vacated a record-setting $145 billion punitive damages verdict against the nation’s largest cigarette companies. In an order issued last week, the state high court accepted jurisdiction in Howard Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a class action brought on behalf of 700,000 Florida smokers. The plaintiffs claimed they were victims of an industry fraud and conspiracy to cover up the health effects of smoking. Oral arguments are set for Oct. 6. New Stanford dean stanford law School named New York University School of Law Professor Larry Kramer its new dean last week. Kramer, 45, an associate dean for research and academics at NYU, replaces Kathleen Sullivan, who will return to teaching after a one-year sabbatical. Kramer is a constitutional law expert and the author of The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review, published by Oxford University Press. Kramer studied religion and psychology at Brown University and is a 1984 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan before joining Chicago’s faculty in 1986. He taught at the University of Michigan Law School before joining NYU. Pfizer to pay $430M to settle seizure drug suits Pfizer Inc.’s Warner-Lambert unit last week agreed to pay $430 million for improperly promoting its anti-seizure drug, Neurontin, for unapproved uses. It also pleaded guilty to criminal charges for “aggressively marketing Neurontin . . . for a wide variety of ailments for which the drug was not approved” by the Food and Drug Administration, said federal prosecutors in a news conference. Such maladies included migraines, attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder. The penalty included a $240 million criminal fine-the second highest ever in a health care fraud case, according to federal prosecutors-and a $190 million civil settlement that will be paid out to state Medicaid programs and anti-fraud units. Government agencies from all 50 states as well as the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston cooperated in reaching the global settlement. Littler hit with sanction A Santa Clara County, Calif., judge has fined Cypress Semiconductor Corp. and its law firm, Littler Mendelson, nearly $88,000 for failing to name more than 20 witnesses during the discovery phase of a sexual harassment case. Superior Court Judge Richard Turrone levied the penalty after a mistrial was declared in a case filed by former Cypress employee Margo Kearney. Just days before the trial was to begin in late February, defense attorneys presented 22 new witnesses who weren’t identified during discovery. Cypress was “not complete or straightforward or truthful, because it excluded any mention of the 22 persons whom Cypress listed as witnesses a few weeks later,” Turrone wrote. “Cypress and its counsel knew that the 22 had relevant knowledge; yet they failed to disclose the witnesses’ identities, addresses and telephone numbers.” Raytheon to settle suit Waltham, Mass.-Defense contractor Raytheon Co. will pay $410 million in cash and securities to settle a lawsuit filed nearly five years ago by shareholders who claimed that the company misled them about its financial problems. The tentative settlement leaves standing allegations against Raytheon’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, claiming it signed off on misleading financial statements by Raytheon, and stood to garner more than $70 million worth of fees for nonaudit services. The settlement includes a cash payment of $210 million and stock warrants, which are similar to options, valued at $200 million.

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