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ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY WHALES ON GOVERNMENT You could say it was a whale of a victory for Brent Plater, but that would be a bit cheesy. The staff attorney with the litigious Center for Biological Diversity won a court decision earlier this month ordering the federal government to protect ocean habitat for the Pacific right whale. The opinion, by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, culminated five years of work for Plater, which began when he was a volunteer for the center — before he passed the bar. The right whale, he said, has a special significance beyond the familiar cetaceous tragedies that breed bumper stickers and bad movies. “Right whales are emblematic of our long and twisted relationship with marine mammals in the North Pacific,” he said. That relationship led to drastic reductions in the number of right whales, so named because their blubber-rich flesh and tendency to float when harpooned made them the right leviathan to hunt. Until relatively recently, Plater said, the Pacific population was believed to be extinct. Now there are thought to be at least two dozen of the whales, which are frequent victims of boat collisions. Scientists believe this is due in part to their ill-considered preference for sleeping at the ocean’s surface. In addition to forcing the government to designate a Pacific right whale habitat after a three-decade-plus delay, Plater said, Alsup’s decision will force the government to be more responsive to citizen comments on endangered species issues. With the whale victory behind him, Plater — who lauded Alsup for being “particularly aware of how lawless the Bush administration is” — said he’s now focusing on saving the red-legged frog. — Justin Scheck A ROYALTY PAIN In the summer of 1981, bullwhip-wielding archaeologist Indiana Jones dominated theater screens. People who couldn’t get enough of Harrison Ford’s close encounters with boulders, snakes and the occult were able to buy the novelized version of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” While the book appears to be out of print, it’s gotten new life in the court system. Campbell Black, who was given a $35,000 advance to write the novel, is suing Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4 million alleging fraud and breach of contract. He claims the company didn’t pay him enough royalties on sales of the book. Under the contract, he was to get 2 percent of domestic sales and 1 percent of foreign sales once enough copies of the book were sold to cover his advance. “At this point it looks like at least $40,000 was not paid, and with interest it’s almost $100,000,” said Black’s attorney, Morris Getzels, who has a solo practice in Tarzana. Lucasfilm said it has given Black full access to its accounting records for the novelization of the movie and fully paid Black for his work. The company said about 700,000 copies of the book were sold. “Ninety-five percent of sales of books like this occur within two or three years of a motion picture’s release,” said LucasFilm’s attorney David Given, of San Francisco’s Phillips, Erlewine & Given. Black filed suit in Marin County Superior Court in October. Getzels said his client waited 23 years to sue because he didn’t know he’d earned more than his advance until he got a new agent who looked into the book’s sales. Lucasfilm says Black has failed to answer questions about the suit. On Thursday the court issued a tentative order granting Lucasfilm’s motion to compel Black to respond and imposing $1,200 in sanctions against the author. A hearing on the motion is set for July. The parties are also to begin court-ordered mediation today. Meanwhile, anyone who wants to peruse the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” book can find a copy online. Amazon.com is selling the novel for a penny. — Brenda Sandburg RELATIVELY AMAZING RACE Bingham McCutchen lawyers say they don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but they certainly played out “The Amazing Race” with full gusto last week in a program to acclimate the Silicon Valley office’s four summer associates. Imitating the reality show, in which pairs of contestants complete tasks in a whirlwind race around the globe, the Bingham contestants raced around Palo Alto. The contest began at Bingham’s offices, with lawyers puncturing balloons with screwdrivers to obtain their first instructions, which was to go to IKEA and purchase a table. “It was crazy,” said summer associate Susheel Daswani. “I thought I was going to take somebody’s eye out [with the screwdriver.]“ On the drive over, teammates strategized how to most quickly maneuver through the mazelike store. “I hate IKEA and despise shopping there,” Kevin Fitzgerald, an associate on Daswani’s team, was quick to say. “But we called ahead to know where the table was, and one woman knew enough to go through the customer service entrance.” At IKEA, the Bingham lawyers say, shoppers believed they were on the actual show, and in one case let a team cut ahead to the front of the checkout line. A woman even offered to buy the team’s table. “Maybe it was my fault,” adds Fitzgerald. “[The IKEA clerk] was bagging [the woman's purchases] and I grabbed the scanner and scanned our table for him, and it showed up on her bill, and she offered to pay.” The Bingham lawyers declined, but they completed the IKEA task so fast that organizers had to scramble to set up the next clues: at the Gates of Hell in the Rodin Sculpture Garden, at the Giants Dugout store at Stanford Mall, and on home plate of the Baylands Baseball Fields. It was all fun and games — very, very competitive games. “We were pulling out of our office after the sixth task, and we had made some ground on [partner] Alan Kalin’s team,” Daswani recalls. “We were about to pull out and turn left, and Alan Kalin just barreled into the left lane and cut us off and they said something through the window. It wasn’t very nice.” The competition was so intense that it was decided that a repeated version of the event would include nonpartisan designated drivers. The four associates who organized the event, Susan Vaughan, Ruby Wayne, Saina Shamilov and Carolyn Chang, said they could barely keep up with the teams, who were crazed and dripping with sweat from the competition. “They didn’t talk to each other unless it had something to do with getting things done,” Wayne said. Some attorneys used all available resources to come in first. “We had to get a drink at Starbucks and we called ahead and said we would leave them a big tip,” said partner James Snell. “And we did.” The race ended with an argument over who actually won — but maybe that was to be expected. “You give lawyers anything to be competitive about,” said Snell, “and we do a good job with it.” — Marie-Anne Hogarth

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