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REED SMITH TO BE ON RECEIVING END OF VIOXX SUITS The Bay Area’s new kid on the block, Reed Smith, will be California defense counsel for the sure-to-be-mammoth litigation surrounding Merck & Co.’s Sept. 30 recall of Vioxx pain medication, say those familiar with the potential court battles. At first glance, the situation looks like another example of the high-stakes work former Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May lawyers have enjoyed since Reed Smith acquired the Oakland-based firm in 2003. Actually, it’s the other way around — Crosby, Heafey’s ties with Merck precede the merger. Well before this month’s recall announcement, Merck had already been hit with litigation over Vioxx. The lawsuits, which are ongoing, were coordinated in Los Angeles, and Crosby, Heafey was defending the company there, according to court documents. Even before the Reed Smith merger, the names of Los Angeles partners Michael Brown and Thomas Yoo appeared on court papers under Crosby, Heafey’s moniker. — Jahna Berry KENT RETURNS THE FAVOR Earl Sanders’ legal woes aren’t over yet. The ex-police chief who beat the rap on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice now faces suits from his former lawyer — and his PR guy. Sanders got a San Francisco Superior Court judge to declare him factually innocent after he was indicted in the fajitagate case last year. But he’s not yet escaped a tussle over who should pay for the legal and media work that two plaintiffs say went into clearing his name. Solo Allen Kent is representing San Francisco lawyer Philip Ryan and former mayoral spokesman Noah Griffin in their suits against Sanders and the city of San Francisco, which were filed last month. Ryan, who was a high school buddy of Kent’s, has stood up for Kent before, representing him earlier this year in a contempt hearing before the California Supreme Court. Ryan claims the ex-chief paid him $63,500, but that his time was worth at least $250,000. In his suit, he claims he worked “almost exclusively” for Sanders for six months. Griffin claims he was hired to “neutralize” and “turn around” negative and scandalous media coverage that occurred after a grand jury indicted Sanders and six other police brass for allegedly blocking the investigation of a street brawl between three off-duty police officers and two civilians. At an hourly rate of $350, Griffin figures he’s owed $85,400. The city attorney’s office denied claims that Ryan and Griffin filed before suing. Spokeswoman Alexis Truchan declined to comment on the lawsuits, saying the office hadn’t been served yet. Similarly, Sanders’ current lawyer, Charles Bonner of Sausalito, said he hadn’t seen the suits, but he remarked it “sounds like gold digging to me.” Pam Smith BLAME THE POLITICIANS Those darn legislators. During an oral argument before the California Supreme Court last week, the chief justice and one of the lawyers in the case took gentle jabs at the often-obfuscated laws that come down from the state Legislature. In a case concerning the admissibility of California Occupational Safety and Health Act standards in negligence cases against third parties, the justices brought up Brock v. State of California, 81 Cal.App.3d 752, a 1978 ruling by Sacramento’s Third District Court of Appeal. Justice Ming Chin pointed out that legislators, in amending state labor codes to clarify employers’ responsibilities at worksites, had specifically said their changes had no effect on Brock, which some lawyers have interpreted as saying OSHA standards cannot be admitted in cases against third parties. Kentfield solo practitioner Daniel Smith, who represented an injured man who had sued a contractor who was not his employer, said Brock simply said the state isn’t liable in such situations. “Then,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar asked, “why didn’t the Legislature just say that the state isn’t liable?” “I’m sorry, your honor,” Smith responded, “but the Legislature doesn’t always put things in the clearest language.” Chief Justice Ronald George couldn’t resist jumping in. “We’d have much less work,” he said, “if they did.” — Mike McKee

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