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CONSUMERS UNION WINS LAWYER FEES Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has parlayed its recent anti-SLAPP victory against Sharper Image Corp. into more than $500,000 in attorneys fees and a settlement to end all litigation. Although Sharper Image admitted no wrongdoing, it’s a clear legal victory for Consumers Union, which is represented by Burlingame’s Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy. Sharper Image had sued the consumer group over negative reviews of its best-selling product, the Ionic Breeze Quadra Air Purifier. The retailer alleged that Consumers Union made false statements and maliciously published its reports. But in November, U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney granted Consumers Union’s motion to toss the suit under California’s law prohibiting so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, also known as SLAPP suits. Sharper Image intended to file in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals but, as part of the settlement, has withdrawn that appeal. California’s anti-SLAPP statute allows attorneys fees. Consumers Union wanted $600,000 and got $525,000. Sharper Image’s lead attorney, E. Robert Wallach of San Francisco, said that although Consumers Union won in federal court, Sharper Image is winning in the court of public opinion. Even though the magazine’s tests indicated that the Ionic Breeze did a poor job of removing pollutants from the air, it remains very popular among consumers. The case is Sharper Image v. Consumers Union, 03-4094. — Jeff Chorney SONOMA EX-DEPUTY DA FACES BAR CHARGES State Bar prosecutors have filed disciplinary charges against a former Sonoma County deputy district attorney, accusing him of concealing evidence favorable to the defense in a high-profile murder case. In documents filed Wednesday, prosecutors say that Brooke Halsey Jr. intentionally withheld e-mails that could have helped defend Petaluma physician Louis Pelfini against charges he murdered his wife, Janet, on Nov. 7, 1999. Dr. Pelfini claimed she had committed suicide, but investigators attributed her death to suffocation. A grand jury indicted Pelfini of murder on Dec. 19, 2000. After trial began, though, reports surfaced that Dr. Jay Chapman, a pathologist who had provided autopsy services to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, had recommended termination of the prosecution based on his belief that Mrs. Pelfini most likely died of an asthma attack. He had relayed that information by e-mail to Dr. Thomas Gill, another pathologist who had performed an autopsy on the deceased woman. “Since the e-mails contained exculpatory evidence, they should have been disclosed to [defense lawyer Chris] Andrian,” State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel Esther Rogers wrote in her charging document. The case against Pelfini fell apart after the e-mails were revealed. The State Bar accuses Halsey of 12 disciplinary violations. It wasn’t clear late Thursday whether prosecutors would seek disbarment. Halsey passed the bar Dec. 11, 1989, after graduating from Santa Clara University School of Law. The case in State Bar Court is In the Matter of Halsey, 142330. — Mike McKee THREE NEW JUDGES FOR THE 2ND DISTRICT Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger elevated three Los Angeles County Superior Court judges to the Second District Court of Appeal on Thursday. Sandy Kriegler is going to Division Five, Frances Rothschild to Division One and Thomas Willhite to Division Four. Kriegler, 54, of Sherman Oaks, has been a judge since 1985 when Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him. Before that, he was a state deputy attorney general for 10 years. Kriegler, a Republican, attended Loyola Law School. Rothschild, 63, of Los Angeles, was appointed to the L.A. bench in 1975 by Gov. Jerry Brown. Before that, she was an attorney in private practice. Rothschild, a Democrat, attended UCLA School of Law. Willhite, 50, of Arcadia, was appointed to the municipal court bench by Deukmejian and was elevated to the superior court by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1997. From January to October 2001, he served as a justice pro tem on the Second District. He also served as a deputy state attorney general. Willhite is a Republican and attended Loyola. Each will be paid $159,965. — Jeff Chorney

New Partners

MORRISON & FOERSTER LIFTS 8 LOCAL LAWYERS Morrison & Foerster announced Thursday the election of 22 lawyers to partnership, effective Jan. 1. Five attorneys in the firm’s San Francisco office were promoted. Brooks Beard, a member of the litigation department, earned his J.D. in 1995 from Vermont Law School. Kenneth Brakebill, a litigator, earned his J.D. in 1997 from Hastings College of the Law. Walter Conroy, a member of the corporate group, earned his J.D. in 1996 from Fordham Law School. Joy MacIntyre, a member of the tax group, earned her J.D. in 1996 from New York University School of Law. Mia Mazza, a litigator, earned her J.D. in 1996 from Boalt Hall School of Law. One lawyer, Gregory Caligari, was promoted in the firm’s Walnut Creek office. Caligari, a member of the real estate group, earned his J.D. in 1993 from Hastings College of the Law. There were two promotions in the Palo Alto office. Timothy Harris, a member of the corporate group, earned his J.D. in 1997 from Northwestern University School of Law. Sunil Kulkarni, a member of the litigation department, earned his J.D. in 1996 from Hastings College of the Law. The firm promoted two lawyers in San Diego, two in Los Angeles, one in Orange County, one in Northern Virginia, one in Denver, four in New York, two in Tokyo and one in Hong Kong. Last year, the firm elected 14 attorneys to its partnership. — Marie-Anne Hogarth

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