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Pepper Hamilton hit with malpractice suit Pepper Hamilton and one of its prominent tax partners, W. Robert Gagne, have been hit with a potentially massive legal malpractice suit brought by a bankruptcy trustee who claims the firm ignored blatant conflicts of interest when it allowed Gagne family members and trusts to invest heavily in an ailing company in order to hide its deteriorating financial condition from its creditors. The suit, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, stems from the demise of Student Finance Corp., and alleges that Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton’s simultaneous representation of SFC and its affiliates, as well as its insurer and the Gagne family members as investors, created a situation in which Pepper Hamilton had “inevitable divided loyalties.” Pepper Hamilton’s executive partner, Robert E. Heideck, said the suit has “no merit.” N.J. doubles P.D. rates The fees that New Jersey’s public defender pays to outside lawyers-until lately, the lowest in the country-have been doubled. Public Defender Yvonne Smith Segars hopes that the higher pay will permit her office to increase its pool of private attorneys who stand ready to help with overflow and to take cases when staff lawyers have conflicts of interest. Hourly fees went to $60 for court appearances (up from $30) and $50 for out-of-court work (up from $25). Abercrombie settles suits over the ‘A&F look’ Abercrombie & Fitch has agreed to settle a trio of employment discrimination suits for nearly $50 million, the firm disclosed last week in SEC filings. The proposed settlement provides a victory for two San Francisco firms. Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Minami, Lew & Tamaki had brought two of the suits accusing the Ohio-based retailer of favoring white men in its branding and hiring. The details of the proposed settlement remain confidential. Lead plaintiff attorney Bill Lann Lee, a partner at Lieff Cabraser, filed the race discrimination claim. Lee wrote that Abercrombie “rigorously maintains the ‘A&F Look’ by careful scrutiny and monitoring of its stores.” Employees without that look were allegedly moved to backroom jobs or fired. Jack Lee, of Minami Lew, filed the gender allegation. Gallup’s copyright gaffe After four years of litigation, a federal judge has dismissed a copyright infringement suit brought by Gallup Inc.- the consulting firm best known for the Gallup Poll-after finding that it never properly registered a copyright for its “employee satisfaction survey.” In his 17-page opinion in Gallup Inc. v. Kenexa Corp., No. 00-5523 (E.D. Pa.), District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel found that Gallup’s copyright registration of its “Gallup Q-12″ employee survey was flawed because the company “failed to deposit a copy of the work to be copyrighted as it existed when it was allegedly first published.” Sharper Image loses suit Sharper Image Corp. was just blowing smoke. So said U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney on Nov. 10 when she tossed out a suit filed by the upscale retailer against Consumers Union over negative reviews of its best-selling product, the Ionic Breeze Quadra Air Purifier. Sharper Image alleged that the articles, which appeared in Consumers Union of United States Inc.’s Consumer Reports, were based on bad test procedures and amounted to negligent product disparagement. Consumers Union responded with a motion under California law prohibiting frivolous First Amendment litigation. Sharper Image v. Consumers Union, No. 03-4094 (N.D. Calif.). Squire Sanders sued by Tokyo company A Tokyo-based corporation is accusing the global law firm Squire Sanders & Dempsey of conflict of interest, filing suit last week in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging the loss of more than $23 million worth of computer network security technology. The corporation, SPJC & Co., contends that Squire Sanders attorneys “intentionally deceived” it to benefit another client. SPJC & Co. v. Squire Sanders & Dempsey, No. BC 324292. The suit seeks punitive as well as economic damages. James “Jake” Broderick Jr., managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office, declined to comment.

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