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Steel Hector may merge with Squire Sanders Embattled steel Hector & Davis, formerly one of Miami’s fastest-growing and most powerful law firms, is close to finalizing a deal to merge with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, according to several sources. Under the proposed combination, Squire Sanders, a 700-lawyer firm that has been expanding aggressively through acquisitions, would gobble up Steel Hector. The 160-lawyer Miami firm suffered financial setbacks recently and has been plagued by partner defections amid much speculation about its ability to stay afloat. The sources said the merger could be announced as early as Sept. 1. Representatives of both firms acknowledged that serious talks are under way but denied that a merger is imminent. Squire has 27 offices, the largest in Cleveland. Reed Smith is seeking Chicago merger partner Reed Smith is currently engaged in serious merger discussions with 200-attorney Chicago-based Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, according to several sources in the Windy City. Such an acquisition would move Reed Smith, which has its largest offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, to nearly 1,200 lawyers. Michael Pollack, Reed Smith’s partner in charge of strategic planning, confirmed that his firm has talked to Wildman Harrold, but said it is talking with more than one Chicago firm. But at least two Chicago sources said that talks have reached an advanced stage. Comey to go in-house; N.Y. USA to leave also Lockheed Martin Corp., the nation’s largest defense contractor, said last week that the second-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Justice will become the company’s general counsel. Deputy Attorney General James Comey, 44, will join Lockheed in October, replacing Frank Menaker Jr., 65, as its top lawyer. Comey, who was appointed in 2003 by President Bush, said in April that he planned to leave the Justice Department in the fall. He had served earlier as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Separately, Comey’s successor as the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney, David Kelley, said last week that he will join Cahill Gordon & Reindel of New York by Labor Day as a senior litigation partner. Kelley, who has built a career prosecuting terrorism and organized crime cases, succeeded Comey in December 2003. Michael J. Garcia, head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, will begin serving as the district’s new U.S. attorney on or about Labor Day. First federal Vioxx trial scheduled for November U.S. district judge Eldon E. Fallon, who presides over the federal Vioxx multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, announced that he has scheduled trial to begin in the first federal Vioxx case on Nov. 28. In Evelyn Irvin Plunkett v. Merck & Co Inc., the wrongful death plaintiffs claim that Plunkett’s husband, Richard Irvin Jr., died of a heart attack at age 53 a month after he began taking Vioxx for back pain in April 2001. The case will follow state court Vioxx trials in Texas and New Jersey. Calif. high court strikes down trial waivers The California Supreme Court last week struck down a controversial business practice in which companies agree to waive their rights to a jury trial before any dispute occurs. Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice Ronald George agreed with the appellate court that a jury trial is guaranteed by the state constitution. “In light of our determination . . . it would not be appropriate to enforce such a waiver and thereby deny the right to jury trial to a party who has timely and properly requested such as trial and complied with other applicable statutory prerequisites,” George wrote. Such agreements began gaining popularity among businesses in the 1990s.

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