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A ‘tort reform’ push by Bush in Madison County President Bush continues to push for limits on jury awards for medical mistakes with a visit last week to an Illinois county where the White House says frivolous lawsuits have run amok. Bush asserts that large malpractice awards have driven up the cost of business so high that doctors have to close their businesses or scale back services. Exhibit A in Bush’s case is Madison County, named the country’s top “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association last year because of its reputation for big awards. Lawyers in the area say the legal situation has been exaggerated and Bush is demonizing the county even though large malpractice awards have been scarce. Oh, rats! A lawsuit A viewer is suing NBC for $2.5 million, contending that he threw up because of a Fear Factor episode in which contestants ate rats mixed in a blender. Austin Aitken told The Associated Press he watches Fear Factor often and had no problem with past installments where the reality show’s participants ate worms and insects in pursuit of a $50,000 prize-but eating rats went “too far.” Aitken’s handwritten lawsuit contends the rat-eating made his blood pressure rise, resulting in his being dizzy and lightheaded-and vomiting. NBC responded with a brief statement: “We believe that the claim is completely without merit.” Trading asbestos suits for trust fund a priority Republicans will try for quick action on a measure that would end asbestos lawsuits in exchange for a trust fund to compensate victims, the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said last week, despite a two-year deadlock. “It is my hope to be able to present a bill through markup at a very, very early date,” said Senator Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who became judiciary chairman last week. Republicans say Democrats wouldn’t let previous bills pass because trial lawyers don’t want to lose the money they make from asbestos lawsuits. Democrats argue that the GOP bills didn’t have enough money for victims and that Republicans are only trying to help their friends in the business and insurance communities by immunizing them from lawsuits. Specter said negotiations are still going on. Defense gets the last word on jury selection Criminal defense attorneys get the last word on jury selection under a first-impression ruling by a New York appellate panel. New York’s intermediate-level Appellate Division recently reversed a murder conviction because the prosecutor was allowed to exercise a for-cause challenge after the defense had exhausted all of its challenges for cause and its peremptory challenges. The decision on peremptories built on existing case law. The Appellate Division’s ruling in People v. Powell, No. 10373, extends the rule to challenges for cause. ‘Crawford’ hearsay rule not retroactive, 2d says A landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restrains prosecutors from relying on unchallenged statements from unavailable witnesses is not retroactive, the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The circuit’s unanimous ruling in Mungo v. Duncan, No. 03-2706, is another welcome determination for state and federal prosecutors, who might have had to beat back numerous new attacks on old convictions if the Supreme Court’s ruling in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, was deemed retroactive. Clifford Chance’s Cornell crosses the pond In a move to affirm his law firm’s commitment to the U.S. market, Clifford Chance’s global managing partner, Peter Cornell, has announced he will relocate to New York from London. Cornell, 52, will become the first head of one of London’s “Magic Circle” of leading corporate law firms to be resident in the United States. His announcement comes as Clifford Chance’s U.S. expansion has been hampered by partner departures on both the East and West coasts. He said he would soon be back in touch with partners to put forth a proposal on how the firm’s U.S. management could be made more representative.

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