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Failing the California Bar examination may have been a bigger deal than Kathleen Sullivan imagined. On Wednesday, by the narrowest of margins, the state Supreme Court denied the former Stanford Law School dean’s request to appear pro hac vice for Genentech Inc. in a case involving a $500 million judgment against the company. “The application and motion do not establish grounds for exemption from eligibility requirements,” said the one-page order signed by Chief Justice Ronald George. “They do not show that applicant possesses special expertise in a particular area of the law at issue in this proceeding.” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar recused herself from the vote, while Justice Ming Chin was absent. Justice Carlos Moreno voted to grant pro hac vice status. That means George and Justices Joyce Kennard, Marvin Baxter and Carol Corrigan voted against Sullivan. Sullivan, now of counsel in the Redwood Shores office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Stephen Barnett, an emeritus professor at Boalt Hall School of Law who follows the Supreme Court, said it sounds as if the justices were holding Sullivan’s failure to pass the July bar exam against her. “They feel they have to defend the bar exam against people who don’t pass the exam but still practice here on a continuing basis,” he said. “Now, if she had passed the bar it would be different, but combining the failure on the bar exam and the extended practice here, the court may have felt it necessary to man the ramparts.” Dennis Maio, counsel in Reed Smith’s San Francisco office and a former Supreme Court research attorney, suggested a less personal reason for the court’s decision. “There is a simple answer,” he said. “The rule doesn’t provide for it. If you’re a lawyer resident in California, you can’t be admitted pro hac vice. It’s simply the rule itself. It’s pretty clear.” Pro hac vice status allows out-of-state lawyers to practice on individual cases in California without having a state license. Translated, pro hac vice means “for this occasion.” Sullivan, an acclaimed constitutional lawyer, is licensed to practice in New York and Massachusetts, but learned in November that she had failed California’s exam administered four months earlier. The failure made the front page of The Wall Street Journal, which said Sullivan had been touted as a potential Democratic nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Sullivan took the state’s exam after joining Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel as an appellate specialist in 2004. The 1981 Harvard Law School graduate was the dean of Stanford Law School for five years and remains on the faculty as the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law. Wednesday’s court action takes Sullivan off City of Hope National Medical Center v. Genentech, S129463, in which South San Francisco-based Genentech is challenging a judgment of $500 million, including $200 million in punitive damages, for failing to pay licensing fees to City of Hope, a medical research center in Duarte, about 10 miles east of Pasadena. The award was the largest ever upheld in a published appellate decision in California. The state Supreme Court granted the petition for review in February 2005, but has yet to set a date for oral arguments. Steven Mayer, one of Genentech’s attorneys, said he was “disappointed and surprised” by the court’s decision. “These things are routinely granted,” Mayer said, noting that Sullivan had been allowed pro hac vice just last year in another major Supreme Court case. Indeed, the court itself noted in its order that Sullivan “has made repeated appearances as counsel pro hac vice in the previous two years.” Sullivan applied for pro hac vice status in the Genentech case in December. Mayer, a partner at San Francisco’s Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin, said he doesn’t believe Sullivan’s absence hurts Genentech. “I’m sure the case will be tried on the merits,” he said, “and I don’t think whether any particular lawyer isn’t appearing in the case will affect the ultimate outcome.” City of Hope attorneys Jon Eisenberg and Ellis Horvitz, both of Encino’s Horvitz & Levy, couldn’t be reached for comment. Another City of Hope lawyer, Peter Davis, of Reed Smith’s San Francisco office, said that by his client’s insistence he couldn’t talk to the press.

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