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PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY’S $8 MILLION BICYCLE SUIT FALLS FLAT Because of their anticlimactic nature, defense verdicts don’t usually get much attention. But when the stakes are high, a defense verdict is a big win. Attorneys at Gordon & Rees and San Francisco’s Phillips, Spallas & Angstadt appeared to get such a win Feb. 9 against nine young bicyclists in Marin County Superior Court. S.F. plaintiff attorney Mark Webb had sued Wal-Mart, San Rafael bicycle maker Dynacraft BSC and insurance adjuster Carl Warren & Co. They were accused of marketing bicycles with faulty quick-release mechanisms, causing the front wheels to fall off and kids to smash their faces into the pavement. The suitgarnered substantial press attention, including a prominent story in the Chronicle which noted that Webb intended topresent photographic evidence of”children ranging in age from seven to 13 with gruesome, debilitating head wounds and gashes on the face.” The Chronicle story also noted that the Consumer Product Safety Commission had previously fined Dynacraft $1.4 million for other defective bike parts(though notthe quick-release mechanism). Webb asked for $8 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages. But Phillips, Spallas’ Robert Phillips, who represented Wal-Mart, and Gordon & Rees’ Fletcher Alford, who represented Dynacraft and Carl Warren, persuaded the jury after an eight-week trial that the quick-release mechanisms were not defective. “For us, the evidence that this was a defect was very, very thin,” juror Fred Reppun told the Marin Independent Journal. “It was the consensus pretty much right off.” � Scott Graham NEW DIRECTOR AT AOC Jody Patel, executive officer of the Sacramento County Superior Court, has been named the Administrative Office of the Courts’ regional director for Northern and Central California. Patel will work with presiding justices and administrators in the 32-county region to address their concerns about court funding, security and other issues. Before joining the Sacramento Superior Court in 2001, Patel was a budget consultant with the AOC’s governmental affairs department, where she worked with the state Department of Finance, the legislative analyst’s office and the Legislature. She also spent two decades working for the state executive branch, including a stint as deputy executive director for the Victims of Crime program. The program compensates crime victims for medical treatment, income loss, security installment and other costs they might incur. Patel joins the AOC’s two other regional directors: Sheila Calabro from Southern California and Christine Patton, who oversees the Bay Area and North Coast. Patel succeeds Michael Roddy, who in December was named executive officer of San Diego County Superior Court. She starts March 1. � Cheryl Miller SANDWICH BOARD SAYS IT ALL FOR MAN FULFILLING MAIL-THEFT SENTENCE Shawn Gementera stole mail, and the last stage of his punishment � after two years in prison � was meted out Thursday at a Bayview-Hunters Point post office in San Francisco. For eight hours, Gementera, accompanied by a Postal Service security detail and his lawyer, solo Arthur Wachtel, wore a sign reading, “I stole mail. This is my punishment.” “It was an arduous day,” Wachtel said. And cold, too. The sign-wearing sentence was highly publicized in 2003, when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ordered Gementera to wear the sign for 100 hours and serve two months in prison. (The prison sentence was lengthened to two years after a subsequent mail-theft arrest.) Walker eventually lowered the signboard requirement to eight hours and has remained firm to that end. The Ninth Circuit upheld his ruling, and the Supreme Court declined to review it. On Wednesday, Walker finally refused to change the sentence, despite the testimony of a psychologist who earlier this month questioned its purpose. “The court chose the sign-board condition for defendant because imprisonment has been ineffective either as a deterrent or as a means of rehabilitation,” Walker wrote. “And requiring defendant to perform the sign-board condition would deter other would-be thieves from committing mail theft.” While he disagreed with that ruling, Wachtel said his client is happy that the sentence is behind him. “Fortunately,” Wachtel added, Gementera “got through the day and is going to move on with his life.” The 2004 case is U.S. v. Gementera, 379 F.3d 596. � Justin Scheck

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