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Plaintiffs’ bar starts gearing up for Vioxx The plaintiffs’ bar was heartened last week when pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. stopped sales of Vioxx, a popular arthritis drug that relieves aches and pains, but increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. “Two years ago, I was telling people, even my doctor, ‘Hey, you should stop prescribing this.’ . . . I feel kind of vindicated now,” said Robert Cartwright Jr., a San Francisco plaintiffs’ attorney whose 35 Vioxx personal injury claims are filed with about 250 others in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Even before Merck’s action, hundreds of test cases were headed to trial around the country. The drug netted $2.5 billion last year. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are gearing up for a repeat of the Baycol, Rezulin and fen-phen torts. Merck’s defense attorneys in Reed Smith’s L.A. office said they couldn’t comment on the case, but company spokesman Tony Plohoros said Merck expects to see more litigation. IBM settles pension suit IBM Corp. agreed to a deal last week that all but settles a case in which 140,000 workers claimed that the computer giant’s pension plan discriminated against older workers. The settlement limits IBM’s potential liability in the case to $1.7 billion; the company previously had estimated that a settlement could cost up to $6.5 billion. U.S. must reveal memo on immigrant arrests An internal justice Department memorandum supporting the power of local police to make arrests for civil deportation proceedings under the nation’s immigration laws must be turned over to groups who oppose the policy, a federal judge has ruled. While denying the bulk of requests for documents made by challengers to the new policy announced by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002, Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan recently said that the Justice Department had waived its right to claim that the legal analysis was privileged by citing the analysis in public comments. The ruling came in National Council of La Raza v. Department of Justice, No. 03 Civ. 2559, a lawsuit brought by a number of advocacy groups, represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, opposed to having state and local police enforce the nation’s immigration laws. Enron suit stays in N.Y. A New York bankruptcy judge has barred California from pursuing its claims in a pending suit against the Enron Corp. arising from the state’s energy crisis a few years ago. Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who also presides over the WorldCom bankruptcy, held that California, like most of the other Enron creditors and claimants, must adjudicate its claims in his Southern District bankruptcy court. From May 2000 to June 2001, California’s residents suffered from rolling blackouts and unusually high electricity prices. The state accused Enron of participating in-if not causing-the crisis at the expense of consumers. It joined a long list of claimants in filing with the bankruptcy court on Oct. 11, 2002. Judge axes FBI demand for customer data A law allowing the FBI to compel disclosure of a person’s Internet and phone records from communications companies-and penalizing the companies if they tell the customer-has been found unconstitutional by a federal judge. Southern District of New York Judge Victor Marrero said Wednesday that issuance of so-called national security letters by the FBI under 18 U.S.C. � 2709 violates the Fourth Amendment. He also ruled that the ban on telling targets about the letters is a violation of the First Amendment. The identity of the plaintiff in Doe v. Ashcroft, No. 04 Civ. 2614, was kept secret and under seal by Marrero after the American Civil Liberties Union sued this summer. John Doe is described in the complaint as an “internet access firm” to whom the FBI sent a national security letter. Study’s verdict: Women lawyers have it tough A study by the Capital District Women’s Bar Association suggests that the Albany, N.Y., area is a trying place for women attorneys in law firms. The survey, in which half of the 50 largest firms responded, found that only about 17% of the partners are women while they account for 44% of the associates. More strikingly, at least from the standpoint of the bar group, is that firms that are so small that they do not have to offer Family and Medical Leave Act benefits generally do not offer them. That, members said, points to a somewhat family-unfriendly environment and may contribute to women’s high drop-out rate. Albany Law School reports that 76% of its female graduates go into private practice, but fully one-third of them drop out within six years.

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