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Vioxx plaintiffs’ lawyer wants pay hike for jurors As New Jersey’s next, predictably lengthy Vioxx trial approaches this month in Atlantic City, a lawyer for the plaintiffs is proposing a way to make jury service more palatable: supplemental juror pay. He’s not talking about a slight bump up of the $40 per diem maximum rate, either. Instead, he’d like to boost it to $100, with the excess funded equally by the plaintiffs and defendant Merck & Co. W. Mark Lanier proposed the same plan last summer in Angleton, Texas, and after a six-week trial, the jury awarded $253.5 million to a Vioxx user’s widow. Texas has a statute allowing such excess funding; New Jersey does not. Lanier’s request was made at a recent conference with Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee. The trial starts on Feb. 27. Several firms boost first-year pay to $145K More law firms have boosted associate base salaries to match the emerging standard of $145,000 for first-years. New York firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Cahill Gordon & Reindel have raised all of their associate salaries by $20,000. Washington-based Covington & Burling and national firms Greenberg Traurig and White & Case raised salaries for their New York associates. Latham & Watkins also raised the starting associate salary for its New York office by $20,000. New York’s chief judge details pay plan proposal New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye last week proposed a public official compensation plan designed to remove the specter of politics from the controversial salary issue and to ensure that judges-and lawmakers and executive department heads-receive annual cost-of-living pay hikes. Under her proposal, a bipartisan committee would meet after each gubernatorial election to set salaries for the next four years. The panel would examine, among other things, the negotiated increases in public-employee union contracts and private-sector salaries to determine an annual increase. Those increases would take effect automatically, without action by the state Legislature or the executive. However, the governor and lawmakers would have the flexibility to change or reject raises in any particular year, perhaps in response to a fiscal crisis. Ken Starr signs on for challenge to Sarbanes The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which reshaped the accounting industry after a wave of corporate scandals, is being challenged on constitutional grounds by pro-business conservatives. The high-profile legal team includes Kenneth Starr, best known as the special prosecutor in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Opposed to the sweeping anti-fraud law, they are challenging the board Sarbanes-Oxley established to oversee the accounting industry, arguing that the board violates the Constitution’s mandated separation of powers among the three branches of government. The Free Enterprise Fund, an anti-tax group that seeks limited government, filed suit last week in federal court in Washington against the accounting board, known as the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Christi Harlan, a spokeswoman for the board, said she had no immediate comment because the board hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit. Boies firm wins fight over examiner, for now The judge presiding over the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Adelphia Communications Corp. has denied a request to appoint a special examiner to determine whether Boies, Schiller & Flexner, which formerly represented the cable television company, violated the bankruptcy code by failing to disclose that some of its lawyers, including children of senior partner David Boies, were financially interested in litigation-support companies the firm recommended to Adelphia. The company, which landed in bankruptcy in 2002 following allegations that its founders, the Rigas family, looted the company of hundreds of millions of dollars, asked Boies Schiller to resign as its special litigation counsel last August for failing to disclose those interests. The request for a special examiner, supported by the U.S. trustee, Adelphia and its creditors’ committee, was made in response to Boies Schiller’s final request for fees in the case. The firm is seeking almost $30 million for its work since June 2002, most of which has already been paid. Adelphia and its creditors are hoping a probe will show that document-management company Amici and copying company Echelon overcharged the estate, which was billed millions for their services. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber denied the request for an examiner at a hearing last week, but gave the parties leave to investigate the matter further on their own.

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