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REDFORD APPLAUDS NRDC’S NEW GREEN-FRIENDLY DIGS Other than its location at the top of the building occupied by Sam Spade in the Dashiell Hammett novels — a dingy building at the corner of Sutter and Montgomery — there’s nothing noir about the new enviro-friendly office space the Natural Resources Defense Council unveiled Thursday evening. The new offices were unveiled at a well-hors d’oeuvred party featuring wine, whole-grain bread, a myste-rious and healthy-looking yellow emulsion served in mini parfait glasses and special guest Robert Redford. The two-story space — which houses 11 lawyers, an expansive law library and assorted staff — is designed to maximize and reflect natural light, with large windows and whitewashed concrete ceilings, Nelson said. The crowd that took the office tour Thursday heard about the energy-efficient lighting, recycled carpeting and cubicles made without the volatile compounds responsible for “that lovely new car smell that’s so bad for you,” NRDC policy analyst Barry Nelson said. The idea behind the project, Nelson said, was to show that it’s possible “to take an old classic piece of American office architecture and turn it into a green building,” while demonstrating that the NRDC practices what it preaches. Drew Caputo, a staff attorney with NRDC’s oceans program, was on the design panel for the new space and likes to take some credit for the large size of the law library. “It’s a reminder that we’re kind of a big-time environmental advocacy group � but we’re also a law firm,” he said. Water lawyers Jared Huffman and Hamilton “Hal” Candee were equally pleased. “There are so many windows,” said Candee, whose 16-year series of lawsuits to re-store the San Joaquin River came to a head in August, when a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Cali-fornia said the federal government must let more water into the river. The evening came to a climax as the crowd pressed together to hear Redford praise NRDC, criticize the Bush administration, and call for continued effort by environmentalists to preserve endangered places. But, he added, “I know I’m speaking to the converted here.” A woman in a rhinestoned “extinction sucks” T-shirt nodded in agreement. — Justin Scheck CURIOUS COLLABORATION Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is known for corporate defense work and employer-side labor representation. Former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne’s firm, Renne Sloan Holtzman & Sakai, represents only public agencies and nonprofits, and Renne herself focuses on plaintiff work. So it came as a surprise when the two firms teamed up in October as plaintiff counsel in a case against several insurance companies on behalf of senior citizens allegedly bilked by “living trust mill” operations. But Renne and Ingrid Evans, the Renne Sloan attorney who initiated the case, said that after talking with an acquaintance at Morgan, Lewis, they realized the firm — with its big-name firepower and experienced insurance recovery practice — could make an ideal partner. “We started talking about our mutual interests,” Renne said. Those interests include getting reimbursement for seniors and recovering attorneys fees — and possible damages — that could benefit both firms. “It may be this is a long, hard, drawn-out fight that will require our resources to get people the relief they deserve,” said David Halbreich, a litigation partner with Morgan, Lewis. The point, he adds, is not so much to collect a fee but to stop this decades-old scam that insurance regulators around the country have struggled — largely unsuccessfully — to rein in. “The wheels of justice move very slowly, and they really haven’t stopped anyone from getting ripped off,” said Pat McGinnis, director of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the lead plaintiff in Renne’s case. Her group and several individual seniors are named in the suit, which seeks class status for injured elderly plaintiffs and includes an unfair business practices claim. McGinnis said the trust mill scams begin when representatives of a firm give free estate planning seminars — often at nursing homes or senior centers — to persuade seniors to buy living trusts. Once individuals buy a living trust — usually for less than $400 — the firms gain access to seniors’ financial records. “They sucker the old folks into disclosing their facts and statistics so they can sell them annuities,” said F. Bentley Mooney Jr., a North Hollywood solo who specializes in estate planning. These annuities, Mooney said, are often beneficial for a person of 40 or 50 years old, but wholly inappropriate for someone 70 or 80 who is virtually guaranteed to die before the annuity expires. While the California insurance commissioner has gone after several living trust operations since 1995, McGinnis said they tend to “split up like a bunch of cockroaches,” and continue their abuse. Renne said her suit aims to address this on a systemic level. CANHR v. American Equity Investment Life Insurance, 04-435933, was filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Oct. 25. Renne said the five defendants would be served this week, and a case management conference is set for April 1. Attorneys for three of the defendants, Gentry Group, Estate Preservation Inc. and AmeriEstate, could not be reached for comment Friday. — Justin Scheck JENNIFER WATCH: WEEKS 12& 13 “A leader who wants to be loved won’t make it,” Donald Trump told the audience tuning into a recent episode of “The Apprentice.” Jennifer Massey doesn’t have that problem. The Clifford Chance associate is coolly indifferent to her competitors, who were sorry to see her return from the boardroom at the beginning of Thursday’s show. “Jen’s irritating,” said Kelly, who when asked by Trump to move a teammate to the other team had chosen Massey. “The powers that be are onto her,” added Kevin. “They realize she’s not bringing as much to the table.” Massey did poorly a couple of weeks ago. The teams had to design a bottle for a new Pepsi drink dubbed “Pepsi Edge.” Massey’s teammates adopted her suggestion, creating a bottle with a sphere at the top and another at the bottom. A Pepsi marketing official said it looked like two blobs of badly colored tennis balls. Kelly came up with the winning design for the other team — carving out the “D” in “Edge,” which got rave reviews from the Pepsi reps. But in Thursday’s episode Massey was the star. The teams had to help make and market a new M&M/Mars candy bar by overseeing production on an assembly line and by selling the bars (the ones that passed inspection) on the streets of New York City. Massey proposed that she and her teammate Sandy dress identically and style their shoulder-length hair the same way to appear as the “M&M sisters.” Sandy, who had denounced Massey in the previous show, was won over, sort of. “My relationship with Jen is about business,” Sandy said. “How can you get personal with her? She’s like a mannequin, plastic.” The two women were a hit, selling 290 candy bars for a profit of $1,023.11. Meanwhile, their three opponents sold 323 bars at a much lower price, bringing in $560.75. Ivana made a desperate attempt to increase her team’s sales when she learned from a passerby that Massey and Sandy were selling their candy bars for $5 a piece. Ivana ridiculed them, saying they looked like “two cheap hookers.” She then began walking up to men and offering to drop her skirt if they would buy a candy bar for $20. Several men took her up on her offer. Trump’s adviser, Carolyn, was horrified. “You weren’t selling a candy bar,” she told Ivana in the boardroom. Ivana tried to get Massey booted off the show by criticizing her track record. But that was a futile move since Massey wasn’t in the room. “I’m not hiring a stripper,” Trump said. “Ivana, you’re fired.” With two more episodes left, it looks like an offshore bookmaking outfit made the right call when it canceled betting on the outcome of the show. Antigua-based BetWWTS.com reportedly was concerned that someone had inside knowledge about the final two contestants when an unusual number of people placed the maximum bet of $300 on Massey and Kelly. — Brenda Sandburg

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