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IBM looking to settle mammoth pension suit International business Machines Corp. said last week it is in talks to settle a mammoth lawsuit alleging a pension plan adopted by the firm in the 1990s discriminated against 140,000 older workers. IBM recently agreed to settle a small part of the suit, involving a few thousand workers, in a case that has been closely watched by scores of large companies with similar pension plans. After a judge ruled in favor of the workers earlier this year, the company said an overall judgment involving its cash balance pension plan could cost more than $6.5 billion. Judge G. Patrick Murphy had been expected to announce damages soon. But IBM asked him to postpone the decision, saying it is “in discussions regarding a possible resolution of some of the remedies, issues and/or claims in the suit.” Anti-lawyer ads draw ire A group funded in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that plans to run ads criticizing Democratic ties to trial lawyers is the target of a complaint filed with election officials last week. The complaint to the Federal Election Commission is against the November Fund by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. It accuses the U.S. chamber of making an improper corporate donation of $500,000 to the fund and says the group plans to run ads targeting Democratic vice presidential nominee and former trial lawyer John Edwards. Judge says she erred in California death case Last year, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Betty Fletcher didn’t believe a California death row prisoner deserved another chance to escape lethal injection. Now she does. Fletcher was part of a three-judge panel that denied convicted murderer Larry Davis’ habeas corpus petition in June 2003. She, along with Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, signed an opinion written by Judge M. Margaret McKeown that denied Davis an evidentiary review. The judges ruled against all of Davis’ claims, including ineffective assistance of counsel. But in an order issued last week, Fletcher says she was wrong. She changed her mind after a “painstaking” review of the penalty phase of Davis’ trial. But the judge’s reversal, issued as a dissent from the denial of en banc review, probably comes too late to make a difference in Davis’ case, said his attorney, Tracy Dressner of La Crescenta, Calif. “I’m glad Judge Fletcher saw the error of her ways,” Dressner said. “It’s unfortunate she didn’t do that the first go-round.” Davis v. Woodford, No. 04 C.D.O.S. Kirkpatrick & Lockhart joins Nicholson Graham Kirkpatrick & Lockhart will merge with London-based Nicholson Graham & Jones, effective on Jan. 1, 2005, to form a 950-attorney firm. The London firm, with 135 lawyers, focuses on corporate, commercial and banking law and other areas. The new firm will be called Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham. With about 800 attorneys, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart is ranked 37th in The National Law Journal‘s list of the 250 largest law firms in the country. Yet another N.Y. outpost How many California firms can make it in New York? At least one more, hopes Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. The Los Angeles firm announced the opening of a nine-lawyer outpost in New York last week, joining Pillsbury Winthrop, Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe and O’Melveny & Myers among other California players operating in Midtown Manhattan. It’s just the second office the firm has opened outside California. It christened a Washington office 19 months ago. “Opening a New York office will help us serve our clients headquartered in New York, who have operations or matters arising in the metropolitan region or who engage in sophisticated financial transactions,” said firm Chairman Guy Halgren in a prepared release. ABA overhauling rules on gifts for judges Rules on gifts for judges are being overhauled for the first time in 15 years, with a commission looking at ways to cut down on the expense-paid trips and other freebies given to members of the bench. Some on the American Bar Association panel are concerned about the vagueness of the current rules, such as allowing judges to accept any “ordinary social hospitality.” The commission’s work is garnering more attention since U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took a hunting vacation with Vice President Dick Cheney early this year while the court was considering Cheney’s appeal in a records-secrecy case. Scalia refused to step down from hearing the case. The 11-member commission, which includes some judges, was working last week on a proposal that should be released this week for public comment.

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