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Out-of-state wine sales struck down by Pa. judge A federal judge has struck down a Pennsylvania law that prohibits out-of-state wineries from making direct sales to Pennsylvania consumers, hotels and restaurants after rejecting an argument that the law’s constitutional defect could be cured by extending the prohibition to in-state wineries. In Cutner v. Newman, Senior U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam concluded that a regulation passed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was not enough to fix a discriminatory law. Fullam’s ruling is the fourth such decision handed down in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s May ruling in Granholm v. Heald that struck down similar laws in New York and Michigan. Applying Granholm, federal judges have struck down laws in Massachusetts, Florida and Ohio. Cravath Swaine elects a new presiding partner Cravath, Swaine & Moore has elected its next presiding partner. Evan Chesler, who was elected to the New York firm’s top management position at a partners’ meeting last week, will succeed Robert D. Joffe. One of the nation’s most prestigious firms, 479-lawyer Cravath is also one of the most conservative, largely eschewing international expansion. Chesler said he is mindful of globalization and its effect on law firms. But he also said Cravath’s model of practice had held up extremely well. In N.J., proposed cuts in peremptories assailed Rarely have litigators in New Jersey been so united as they are in opposing a state Supreme Court committee proposal to slash the number of peremptory challenges in criminal and civil cases. The proposal was made in June, and by the time the comment period closed on Nov. 1, every major litigators’ group other than prosecutors had weighed in against it, including the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey. The suggested reductions in peremptory challenges are part of a raft of recommendations on jury selection by the court’s Special Committee on Peremptory Challenges and Jury Voir Dire, headed by Appellate Division Judge Joseph Lisa. Half of the committee’s members are judges and half are lawyers. U.S. silica cases closed, sent back to states U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who presides over the silica multidistrict litigation in Corpus Christi, Texas, brought two years of federal silica litigation to a close last week when she sent the last of the silica cases back to their state courts of origin and dismissed the single case of original federal jurisdiction consisting of about 100 individual claims. In re Silica Products Liability Litigation, No. 03MD1553 (S.D. Texas). Jack’s finding last summer that most of the 10,000 claims before her were “manufactured for money” by plaintiffs’ lawyers, screening doctors and screening companies is currently the subject of further sanctions proceedings in her court, as well as federal grand jury proceedings in New York and a congressional investigation. Next N.J. Vioxx trials to focus on long-term users The next Vioxx products liability case to come to trial in New Jersey will likely be a tougher battle for manufacturer Merck & Co., which two weeks ago got its first courtroom victory in a case involving short-term use of the now-withdrawn painkiller. Judge Carol Higbee of Atlantic County, N.J., Superior Court, who is overseeing about 3,500 Vioxx lawsuits filed in New Jersey-half the suits filed to date-has told attorneys that she wants the next group of trials to involve plaintiffs who took the drug for 18 months or more. Plaintiffs’ lawyers said that the judge appears to want to determine how such cases will play out in an attempt to encourage the settlement of some lawsuits. Merck has admitted that Vioxx doubles the risk of heart attacks and strokes after use for 18 months or longer; it pulled the arthritis pill from the market. An Atlantic City, N.J., jury returned a defense verdict for Merck on Nov. 3. A Texas jury returned a $253 million verdict against Merck in August. The first federal trial is slated for Nov. 29 in Houston.

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