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Shanghai bar draws a bead on foreign firms American and British law firms have made no secret of their desire to push into the China market. But fast-growing Chinese firms are now pushing back. A fiery memo by the Shanghai Lawyers Association has accused foreign law firms of conducting “illegal business activities” by skirting regulations prohibiting them from practicing Chinese law. Seattle lawyer Daniel P. Harris, who practices often in China, posted the memo and an English translation on his China Law Blog last week. He said that the expectation among lawyers in Shanghai is that the government will take some action against foreign law firms. Scalia to Congress: Mind your own business U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week repeated his strong opposition to invoking foreign law in Supreme Court constitutional decisions-but he said Congress should not legislate against the practice. “I don’t think it’s any of your business,” Scalia said before a lunch meeting of the National Italian American Foundation that included many members of Congress of Italian descent. “I’ll be darned if I think it’s up to Congress to tell us how to rule.” Scalia added, “Let us make our little mistakes, just as we let you make yours.” Merck shareholders’ Vioxx suits are tossed Still smarting from a $13.5 million New Jersey verdict over its painkiller Vioxx-and a judge’s referral of the case to state prosecutors for possible criminal action-Merck & Co. recently got some welcome news from a federal court. U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler in Newark, N.J., dismissed shareholder derivative suits against the company, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to comply with a federal court rule requiring shareholders to demand, before filing suit, that the board of directors take corrective action. The plaintiffs had claimed that a prior demand would have been futile, but Chesler said that the futility of making the demand “must be gauged at the time the derivative action is commenced, not afterward with the benefit of hindsight.” The suit, I n re Merck & Co. Inc. Derivative & ERISA Litigation, nos. 05-1151 and 05-2368, alleged that Merck scientists were aware as early as 1996 that Vioxx might have cardiovascular risks but that Merck marketed it for years without mentioning the problem. Merck did not withdraw the drug from the market until September 2004, after a study linked it to heart attacks and strokes. Mass. court strikes down critical tobacco defense Massachusetts’ highest court last week limited one of the tobacco industry’s most successful defenses in wrongful death lawsuits, ruling that the companies cannot shield themselves from liability simply by claiming that smokers acted unreasonably by lighting up when they knew cigarettes were dangerous. The court’s ruling came in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Philip Morris Inc. by Brenda Haglund, a former Douglas, Mass., woman whose husband died of lung cancer in May 2000. The lawsuit was dismissed by a lower court judge. But the state Supreme Judicial Court reinstated Haglund’s lawsuit, ruling that a defense often used by tobacco companies cannot be used by Philip Morris in Haglund’s case. The court ruled that that type of defense can only be used if a reasonably safe product was used in an unreasonable way. It’s Milbank v. Milbank in L.A. trademark action In a sign of how important branding has become for law firms, New York-based Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy has filed a trademark suit against Los Angeles real estate developer Milbank Real Estate Services Inc. The Los Angeles-based developer denied the allegations in court papers filed earlier this month. In its suit, filed in January in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Milbank Tweed, which goes by “Milbank,” said the developer recently dropped “real estate services” from its name in advertising materials and that its logo “closely approximates the content and style of the Milbank marks,” the suit says. The developer, in papers filed last month, noted that several other businesses use the Milbank name. Richard Burdge, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Howrey who represents Milbank Real Estate Services, said the developer has the right to the name. Parker Bagley, a partner in the New York office of Milbank Tweed, said both companies compete in professional services for U.S. clients in real estate. Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy v. Milbank Holding Corp., No. 06-00187.

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