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$17.2M verdict against Chicago firm reversed A Maryland judge has reversed a $17.2 million jury verdict against Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglas for what a plaintiff argued was the firm’s failure to protect his interests as a shareholder who was pushed out of a high-tech company. In granting the law firm’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Steven I. Platt found that no attorney-client relationship existed between the firm and plaintiff Michael H. Ahan. Ahan v. Grammas, No. CAL 02-09937. [NLJ, Aug. 16]. Wilmer Cutler in Beijing Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is hoping that it can leverage its Washington government affairs and international trade presence into business for its new office in Beijing. The firm opened its doors in China’s capital by poaching five attorneys and their clients from the Beijing office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison of New York. Former U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and former USTR General Counsel Robert Novick-leaders of Wilmer’s China practice-will help open the office. Paul Weiss chairman Alfred Youngwood said the firm is replacing the lost talent with the help of its Hong Kong office. Indigent bills come due in Texas counties Texas’ Fair Defense Act, approved in 2002, which requires the timely appointment of qualified counsel to indigent defendants, appears to have increased costs markedly for a number of large Texas urban counties. Harris County, where Houston is located, saw costs rise $8.7 million since the act took effect, to a current level of $19.7 million. Tarrant County, which is next to Dallas County, spent $10.7 million, or $5 million more since the inception of the act. Yet Dallas County saw costs rise only 10%. The Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense, which oversees the implementation of the act, has commissioned a study on why the costs differ in some counties. The study, which is being conducted by economists at Texas A&M University, is expected to be completed next month, said Jim Bethke, director of the task force. $105M in minivan suit Daimler-Chrysler A.G. plans to appeal a Tennessee jury’s decision last week awarding a Nashville couple more than $105 million over a crash that killed their infant son when a minivan seat collapsed backward. The automaker denounced the verdict and said its seats are designed above federal and industry standards. The lawsuit said that 8-month-old Joshua Flax was riding in the back seat of a 1998 Dodge Caravan in Nashville in 2001 when the vehicle was rear-ended, causing the front passenger seat to collapse and the passenger to strike him, fracturing his skull. Brobeck settlement near? Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison’s bankruptcy trustee, Ronald Greenspan, is inviting the defunct firm’s former partners to a meeting at which he will propose a settlement agreement that would free the partners from litigation related to the firm’s collapse. Greenspan said last week that a time and place for the meeting has not been set, but he expects it will be early next month. Greenspan has asserted in filings to the U.S. bankruptcy court in San Francisco that he intends to pursue claims that the former partners allegedly took distributions when the firm was insolvent. In a filing on Nov. 22, Greenspan said the partners had received approximately $285 million in distributions in 2001 and 2002. Calif. bar pass rate sinks to lowest since 1986 State Bar of California officials were scratching their heads last week as the pass rate for the July bar examination hit an 18-year low. Results show that only 48% of the 8,062 individuals who took the test passed. The pass rate for a main test date hadn’t been that low since 1986, when it was only 44%. Jerome Braun, the state bar’s senior executive for admissions, said he didn’t have an explanation for the low pass rate, but he noted that it continued a three-year trend�with pass rates for the July exam dropping from 57% in 2001 to 51% in 2002 and to 49% in 2003.

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