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GOOD WORK — BUT YOU’RE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK Members of the dream team that helped Attorney General Bill Lockyer win a ruling that could potentially return billions of dollars to California ratepayers could be headed for the employment chopping block. At a press conference held by Lockyer on Thursday, the AG told reporters that six out of the 15 attorneys serving on an energy task force created by legislators had received layoff notices. “We’re recovering 200 to 300 times the amount spent on this litigation, yet with the current budget cuts, out of 15 lawyers working on this, six received layoff notices,” said Lockyer. On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “abused its administrative discretion” when it declined to bill the power sellers for improperly reporting the wholesale rates they charged. Lockyer said Thursday that the federal court’s ruling may also create an opportunity for an additional $3 billion in rebates, above what has already been awarded. Facing a budget shortfall, approximately 60 lawyers in the AG’s office are facing the ax. Once estimated at $10 million, the shortfall has been reduced by half due to retirements and attrition, department leaders say. In late August, attorneys with fewer than two years of service were sent notices stating that they could lose their jobs by the end of the year. The legal team charged with pursuing the market manipulation case was actually created and funded through 2001 legislation, so if team lawyers are laid off, replacements will be moved in from other divisions. Still, said Lockyer, “it’s tragic that we can’t keep those lawyers who have become expert in this area employed by the state.” Jill Duman SCREENWRITER GETS COURT TO PUBLISH HIS WIN When aspiring screenwriter Jeff Grosso scored a win at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a case against Miramax Film Corp., he wanted other struggling writers to benefit from the decision, too. The problem is that in April, when a three-judge panel unanimously decided Grosso’s suit should stay alive in state court, the court decided not to publish its opinion. The vast majority of the Ninth’s opinions are not published, but parties can lobby the circuit to transform an opinion from unpublished to published. So that’s what Grosso did. And last week, the court granted his request to publish the opinion. “It’s the right law,” said Grosso’s attorney, John Marder of Manning & Marder, Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez in Los Angeles. “As lawyers who are interested in this area, the ambiguity hurts everything.” The haziness, according to Marder, is where to litigate disputes over allegedly stolen story ideas. When writers accuse a studio of producing a movie or TV show without crediting them, studios often claim the case is a copyright dispute. That gets them into federal court, where the proof burden is higher. On the other hand, writers often claim breach of implied contract, which has a lesser burden of proof and is litigated in state court. At issue in Grosso v. Miramax, 04 C.D.O.S. 8271, was a screenplay written by Grosso entitled “The Shell Game.” He claims Miramax stole his idea to make a 1998 movie called “Rounders,” starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. Although Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, writing for a unanimous panel, ruled that summary judgment in favor of Miramax on the copyright claim was appropriate because the scripts were not similar, she overturned a second component of the district court ruling and ordered the implied contract dispute back to state court. Miramax’s lawyer, Richard Charnley of Nelsen, Thompson, Pegue & Thornton in Santa Monica, fought against publishing the opinion. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the industry now. Certainly there’s going to be a lot of asbestos gloves used when scripts come in,” he said. Charnley also doesn’t like the opinion because it’s not very long. At less than five pages, it’s one of the shortest opinions put out by the court. According to the clerk’s office, in 2003, 84 percent of opinions were unpublished. And of the approximately 50 requests to publish unpublished opinions that are filed each year, the court grants about five. — Jeff Chorney ATHENIAN ARBITRATOR As an arbitrator at the Olympics in Athens, Los Angeles lawyer Maidie Oliveau helped kick a Kenyan boxer out of the games but had no role in the controversy over American Paul Hamm’s contested top finish in the gymnastic all-around competition. And, by the way, Oliveau had a great time. The 51-year-old sports lawyer had the good fortune of being chosen as one of 12 attorneys — and one of two Americans — to sit on the ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the group that settles disputes over drug tests, athletic eligibility and judging. The CAS is governed by the International Counsel of Arbitration for Sport, headquartered in Switzerland. “We will not take jurisdiction over a field-of-play decision,” Oliveau said soon after returning home earlier this month. “We will take jurisdiction over the consequences of a field-of-play decision.” Case in point: Oliveau sat on the three-member panel that sent Kenyan boxer David Munyasia packing after he tested positive for cathine, a prohibited stimulant. “Once the substance is found in your urine, the violation is very clear,” Oliveau said, adding that the boxer’s manager “wanted more time to figure out why this substance had been found in the athlete’s system. “The net effect is that [the boxer] had already been kicked out of the Olympics, and it was up to the boxing federation to deal with it further.” Oliveau, who was born in California but raised in France, speaks both English and French. After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, she joined the Washington, D.C., firm of Dell, Craighill, Fentress & Benton, which handled business transactions for tennis stars such as Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and Tracy Austin. Oliveau eventually moved to Los Angeles, where she made the business side of sports her profession. She was even involved in the naming rights that gave the San Francisco Giants stadium the moniker Pacific Bell Park — now SBC Park. Athens marked Oliveau’s third Olympics. She previously worked the 2000 summer games in Sydney, Australia, and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In Athens, she wound up sitting on only one panel — that of the Kenyan boxer. Olympic rules don’t allow arbitrators to sit on cases that affect their own countries, so she won’t be involved in South Korea’s continuing challenge of Hamm’s gold medal. Having only one case to arbitrate gave Oliveau — who had free lodging and transportation and a $130 per diem — plenty of time to scout out the events. “The games were so wonderful,” she said. “The Greeks were just friendly and welcoming and warm and hospitable. They really wanted to have good games. Just the whole setting was the highlight.” And she’d be quite happy to sign on for the 2008 summer games in Beijing. — Mike McKee STILL FUNNY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS When a person is “roasted,” the honoree is usually around to hear the bad puns and stale one-liners and frown accordingly. But one Santa Clara County judge was such a gruff and unforgettable person that his former colleagues have decided to roast him 18 years after his passing. The Santa Clara County Bench and Bar Historical Society will hold a “Toast/Roast” of the late Judge Bruce Allen on Sept. 22. The roasters will dine on chicken piccata and coulette steak and tell a few jokes. “Allen was extremely bright and well respected but did things his own way — the last of his kind,” said retired Santa Clara Judge Mark Thomas, explaining why people are still getting together in Allen’s honor. Thomas said Allen always had his door open and was quicker than most top lawyers. He was also no-nonsense. On one occasion in the 1950s, there was squabbling among county politicians and employees about funding for the jail, according to Thomas. Supervisors had authorized additional funding so prisoners would receive better care, but one county employee wasn’t following through. “He just hauled the treasurer in, put him on the witness stand, and told him to bring his checkbook. Then he told him to cut a check right now [for the jail funding]. He meant business,” Thomas said. Allen died in 1986 while chopping wood, Thomas said. The emcee will be retired Judge John McInerny, and speakers include District Attorney George Kennedy and San Jose defense attorney James McManis. “The point is to be funny and talk about what he did and respect his memory,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to honor his memory but not knock him at all.” The event will be held at Lou’s Village on West San Carlos Street in San Jose. — Justin M. Norton

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