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Calif. high court OKs wage-and-hour actions Employers got bad news last week when the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that class certification was appropriate for hundreds of wage-and-hour suits. The much-awaited decision said that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Irving Feffer didn’t abuse his discretion by certifying a class action for 600 to 1,400 employees of Sav-on Drugs Inc., a national drugstore chain, who claim they were deliberately mislabeled as salaried managers to exempt them from overtime pay. “The record contains substantial, if disputed, evidence that deliberate misclassification was defendant’s policy and practice,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote. Sav-on Drug Stores Inc. v. Superior Ct., No. 04 C.D.O.S. 7902. Guidelines called lawful The U.S. sentencing Commission last week reaffirmed its view that its sentencing guidelines are constitutional, in the face of the most serious challenge to their validity since they were first promulgated 17 years ago. Commission Chairman Ricardo Hinojosa, a federal judge for the Southern District of Texas, announced that the commission will be filing its own brief asserting the guidelines’ constitutionality in an upcoming pair of Supreme Court cases in which defense lawyers argue that the guidelines violate the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. Those cases, U.S. v. Booker, No. 04-104, and U.S. v. Fanfan, No. 04-105, will be argued on Oct. 4. Larry Thompson heads to PepsiCo Inc. Larry D. Thompson’s high-level government experience helped land him the general counsel post at PepsiCo Inc. Thompson, 58, formerly the second in command at the U.S. Department of Justice, also will head the government relations department at the Purchase, N.Y.-based company. He will replace David R. Andrews, 62, who is scheduled to retire in February. After leaving the Justice Department a year ago, Thompson taught at the University of Georgia School of Law. Thompson spent many years as a partner at King & Spalding of Atlanta, which serves as outside counsel to PepsiCo’s prime competitor, Coca-Cola Co. He also counseled Clarence Thomas during his 1991 confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court. Calif. grandparents win Grandparents have the right to visit their grandchildren, the California Supreme Court ruled last week, but only if they can overcome parents’ objections. The 4-3 ruling, considered mostly favorable to grandparents, also held that courts could award visitation over a custodial parent’s objection as long as the noncustodial parent supports it. The decision drew dissents from three justices, who felt the majority went too far in impinging on parents’ child-rearing rights, which Justice Ming Chin called “possibly the oldest fundamental liberty interest the high court has recognized and . . . among the most basic of civil rights.” Fruits of reform, or feud? A bill requiring the State Bar of California to develop rules for ex-judges who appear before their former colleagues appears on its way to becoming law. But questions still linger about whether it provides needed guidelines or is simply a way for a state senator to express his ire with a political opponent. Drafted by state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, the legislation requires the development of definitive rules to govern former judges appearing as lawyers. The bill was prompted by an instance last year when the entire California 3d Court of Appeal bench recused itself before former Justice Daniel Kolkey was to argue a matter that affected an earlier piece of Burton legislation. “I’m not going to take the bill personally,” said Kolkey, who adds that the measure addresses a “nonexistent problem with the wrong solution.” $352M verdict erased One of the largest verdicts ever awarded by a Philadelphia jury�the $352 million award against CoreStates Bank in July 2000-has been completely overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. While the award had been slashed by every court to review it, the justices’ 6-0 decision in Pioneer Commercial Funding Corp. v. American Financial Mortgage Corp. delivered the coup de grace to the megaverdict. In a 24-page opinion, the state high court held that the trial judge erred by allowing the plaintiff to present a tort claim of conversion against CoreStates without allowing the bank the right to defend its actions under the Uniform Commercial Code. “The trial court’s ruling that the tenets of commercial law were irrelevant improperly relieved Pioneer of establishing an essential element of its case�the absence of lawful justification�and . . . stripped CoreStates of relevant defenses,” Justice Thomas G. Saylor wrote.

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