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Immigration judges I would like to comment on some misleading or erroneous information included in a couple of recent articles. In “Immigration Judges Come Under Fire” [ NLJ, Jan. 30], you indicate that “[t]he [215] immigration judges nationwide are not part of the judiciary but are lawyers working for the Justice Department and acting in a quasi-judicial capacity as administrative law judges.” “Administrative Law Judge” (ALJ) is a very specific federal government job title limited to a group of approximately 1,400 federal employees who have been qualified for their positions by virtue of a rigorous examination process given by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and then selected by individual federal agencies from the competitive list established after the examination process. The DOJ’s Board of Immigration Appeals’ “immigration judges” are not federal “administrative law judges.” Immigration judges are apparently selected and appointed by the DOJ directly (noncompetitively) from whatever candidates apply for the position. It is my understanding that there is only one actual “administrative law judge” at the DOJ and that person is assigned to the Executive Office of Immigration Review. Further, the use of the term “quasi-judicial” to characterize the work performed by ALJs-certainly those ALJs working in my office at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-is inappropriate and debasing. The work performed by the ALJs of EPA is almost identical to that of judges in federal district courts, including the adjudication of aggressively contested, extremely complex legal disputes under various environmental statutes, in a formal hearing process conducted “on the record.” Furthermore, in your subsequent article “Immigration Bench Plagued by Flaws” [NLJ, Feb. 6], you quote Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as stating that the BIA is “farming cases out to lawyers with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the learning curve is very steep.” Some might quickly read this quotation, especially in connection with the prior article, as suggesting that BIA cases are being handled by ALJs at the EPA. EPA ALJs have never handled such cases. While they have handled cases on occasion for other federal agencies pursuant to interagency agreements, to the best of my knowledge, EPA ALJs have never handled any immigration cases. Susan Biro Washington The writer is the chief administrative law judge at the EPA. Top 100 verdicts I am writing about the VerdictSearch Top 100 Verdicts of 2005 survey [ NLJ, Feb. 20]. Item 2 on the list- Garamendi v. Altus Finance S.A. [listed as Quackenbush v. Altus Finance]-was a case prosecuted by our firm-Thelen Reid & Priest-on behalf of the California Department of Insurance. The list says only that there was a $700 million punitive damages verdict which was set aside, “reducing award to nothing.” This leaves the misleading impression that we lost the case, when the truth is very different. We represented the California insurance commissioner in the case, prosecuting fraud claims against a number of French and U.S. entities. The claims arose out of the commissioner’s efforts to rehabilitate the Executive Life Insurance Co. The case went to trial in February 2005, in the U.S. district court in Los Angeles, six years after it was filed. On the eve of trial, we entered into separate settlements with the Credit Lyonnais and Aurora groups of defendants for a total of $595 million net to the commissioner, all of which was paid in 2005. We obtained separate default judgments totaling $39 million against MAAF Assurances and Jean Fran�ois Henin, the former head of Altus Finance, a Credit Lyonnais subsidiary. We proceeded to trial against a well- known French financier named Fran�ois Pinault and his principal company, Artemis S.A., on a jury claim for lost-profit damages, and an alternative equitable claim for restitution based on unjust enrichment, which was tried to the court. At the end of the liability phase, the jury found Artemis liable for conspiracy to defraud the insurance commissioner, while Pinault individually was found not liable. At the end of the damages phase, the jury awarded no compensatory damages but did award $700 million in punitives against Artemis. The court ruled on Oct. 4, 2005, that it would not include the punitive award in the judgment because of the lack of compensatory damages. The commissioner is appealing that ruling, among other issues, and Artemis has also filed a notice of appeal. In November, the court announced it would award $189 million-plus prejudgment interest against Artemis on the equitable unjust enrichment claim. A $241 million judgment was finally entered against Artemis on Feb. 13 of this year, one year after the trial started. A prior $110 million “victim compensation payment” made by Artemis to the commissioner in connection with the settlement of Artemis’ criminal liability will count as partial satisfaction of that judgment. In sum, after six years of hard-fought litigation we obtained settlements and judgments on behalf of the commissioner totaling $875 million (not counting the overturned punitive award) and actual cash recoveries to date of $705 million. Karl D. Belgum San Francisco

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