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Florida justices scuttle move to cap lawyer fees The Florida Supreme Court has halted the first legal effort to put teeth into Florida’s fee-capping “Amendment 3,” handing a temporary setback to the measure’s supporters in the health care industry. All seven justices concurred in the dismissal of a case last week in which the amendment’s sponsors asked the court to draw up new rules of professional conduct that would enshrine caps on trial lawyer contingency fees in medical malpractice cases. Those fees would be limited to 30% of the first $250,000 in damages and 10% of all damages in excess of $250,000. The justices concurred in dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. The one-sentence order did not explain the court’s reasoning. Clifford deal is rejected U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali last week rejected an offer from Clifford Chance to settle claims that its actions had led to the demise of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Instead of accepting a deal between Clifford Chance and Brobeck estate trustee Ronald Greenspan, Montali set a Dec. 17 auction in his San Francisco courtroom to determine the proper price to settle or pursue those claims. There will likely only be two bidders: Clifford Chance and the KM Group, a coalition of plaintiff lawyers led by David McClain of Oakland, Calif’s Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons & Farrise. Zell Miller finds new home at McKenna Long Senator Zell B. Miller will be surrounded by old and new political friends when he joins McKenna Long & Aldridge in January. Miller will join McKenna’s national government affairs practice when his Senate term expires. Eric J. Tanenblatt, the 2000 chairman for President Bush’s campaign in Georgia, heads the practice group that Miller will join. As a senior policy adviser, Miller will provide nonlegal counsel to the firm’s clients, said Tanenblatt, who added that it was premature to say which clients Miller would work with or if he would register as a lobbyist. Although he is the top elected Democrat in Georgia, Miller has gained attention for his recent ties to the Republican Party. Most notably, he gave the nominating speech for President Bush at the Republican National Convention in August. Web patents snatched up by mystery bidder More than three dozen key patents and patent applications for doing business over the Internet sold for $15.5 million at an auction in San Francisco’s bankruptcy court last week. The patents belonged to Commerce One, a Santa Clara, Calif., software firm that is closing. The high price reflects the value of the core patents, which cover basic technology such as standardized electronic documents that automate the sale of goods and services over the Internet. An entity identified as JGR was the winning bidder on seven patents and about 30 pending applications. JGR was represented by Mark Mullin, a partner at the Dallas firm Haynes and Boone. The auction had caused a stir among Silicon Valley technology companies worried that whoever acquired the patents might use them in infringement lawsuits. Nevada high court dropslegal malpractice award The Nevada Supreme Court recently reversed a jury verdict for $3.3 million against two lawyers for alleged malpractice in their representation of a quadriplegic man. [NLJ, 2-4-02]. The court concluded that the evidence didn’t support the damages. Attorneys W. Randall Mainor and Richard Harris were sued by the man’s parents, Philip and Wendy Nault, who claimed negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy. Jason Nault suffered a brain injury when he went without oxygen for seven minutes during a hernia operation. Mainor and Harris settled a medical malpractice suit against the doctors and the hospital for $17 million. The settlement gave Nault $2.5 million. The rest went to his wife, whom he has since divorced, the lawyers and the couple’s daughter. Mainor v. Nault, 120 Nev. Adv. Rep. 84. DLA, Piper seal the deal Piper Rudnick and the British law firm DLA have agreed to combine in the largest merger of law firms to date. The combined firm, which is to be known as DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, will have 2,750 lawyers in 18 countries, making it the third-largest law firm in the world. The impending deal, set to become effective on Jan. 1, 2005, represents a strong bet on the view that the future of the legal profession will belong to those firms that can be all things in all places to major clients. “All things being equal in this world, you’ve got to be big if you want to represent the clients we have and the clients we want to have,” said Francis B. Burch, one of two co-chairmen of Piper Rudnick.

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