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Head of DOJ tobacco trial team calls it quits The lead trial lawyer in the government’s landmark lawsuit against the tobacco industry has quit the case and left the U.S. Department of Justice, a move that comes at a particularly sensitive time when the companies and the department could still negotiate a settlement. Sharon Eubanks, who had aggressively pursued the racketeering case against the tobacco industry, withdrew effective on Dec. 1, the government said in a one-sentence filing in federal court. Eubanks said her supervisors’ failure to support her work on the tobacco case influenced her decision. Her withdrawal follows a stunning reversal in June in which the Justice Department reduced the amount it was demanding from the tobacco industry to $10 billion, from $130 billion. Satisfaction with outside counsel shows increase For the first time in six years, chief legal officers reported an increased satisfaction with outside counsel, according to a recent survey conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel and Altman Weil, a law firm consultancy. This year marked the first time since 2000 that the number of in-house counsel dissatisfied with their outside law firms decreased. Some 48% of chief legal officers said that they had fired or were considering firing outside law firms in 2005. That figure was down 18% from 2004 and 50% from 2000. Calif. police get power to enter with no knock The California Supreme Court last week gave law enforcement officers greater leeway in conducting searches by ruling that San Diego deputies had good reason to enter a home without knocking. By a 4-3 vote, the justices said that exigent circumstances- including a barking dog, ongoing drug deals and a “noisy confrontation” outside the house-justified the entry. The decision seems to give officers more authority to decide on the spot whether knocking before entering a home could pose unseen dangers or give a criminal suspect more time to hide evidence. The three dissenters, led by Justice Carlos Moreno, argued that the search wasn’t justified and that the majority’s ruling lets officers violate people’s fundamental rights against unlawful searches and seizures. Over objections, Vioxx cases combined in N.J. The judge presiding over 3,500 Vioxx cases in New Jersey has set Feb. 27 as the next trial date, this time for a consolidated trial of two plaintiffs’ claims, despite drug maker Merck & Co.’s urging that each case be decided on its own facts. Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee also scheduled three cases for trial on April 24 and two for June 12. Higbee grouped the cases based on the alleged damages as well as the specific years and length of time the plaintiffs took the prescription painkiller. The seven plaintiffs are New Jersey residents who took Vioxx for more than 18 months and then suffered heart attacks. One died. Merck attorney Ted Mayer of New York’s Hughes Hubbard & Reed said his legal team will soon ask Higbee to reconsider her decision to combine cases. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, who favor consolidation so that more of the cases can be heard sooner, say the groupings would avoid duplication of evidence. Orrick moves to acquire France’s Rambaud Martel Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partners last week approved the proposed acquisition of French firm Rambaud Martel. The deal will double Orrick’s Paris presence with the addition of more than 50 attorneys, 16 of whom are partners, including name partner Jean Pierre Martel. Rambaud Martel also gives Orrick a high-profile practice in mergers and acquisitions in that region, and strengthens its finance practice. “This was the leader in public and private M&A in Paris,” said David Syed, Orrick’s managing partner for Europe. “It gives us a whole new market.” For Orrick, the acquisition fits into a global expansion strategy that has included a flurry of international deals involving leading practices. Just last month, Orrick opened a Hong Kong office forged from its cherry-picking of a Coudert Brothers office, and in June the firm opened a Moscow office with former Coudert partners. In addition, Orrick has recently more than doubled the size of its London office. Orrick’s largest offices are in New York and San Francisco.

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