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Panel ponders stripping FTC of merger power Should Congress strip the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of its merger-review authority? A vocal minority among a special commission charged with brainstorming improvements to the merger process says yes. The Antitrust Modernization Commission (AMC), which legislation created in 2002, is evaluating various aspects of antitrust law. Congress created the panel because many of the rules for guarding competition in the U.S. economy were not created by statute, but have evolved through a century of court decisions. The AMC has just begun deliberating on a final report to Congress. Last week, the commission debated the pitfalls of the federal merger-review process, which often can become an expensive and arduous road for companies. A final report to Congress on suggested revisions to merger-review policies and other antitrust practices must be submitted to Congress in April 2007. Eliminating the FTC role would put all merger reviews under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice. While some members-generally those who once worked at Justice-suggested doing away with the FTC’s authority, few other AMC members are giving the single-agency proposal serious consideration. Instead, last week the members debated whether there should be legislation that would speed the process of assigning or “clearing” mergers to an agency faster. -the deal Texas justice admonished over Miers’ nomination The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a public admonition to Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht regarding comments he made to the press last year in support of the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last fall, Hecht estimated that he gave 120 interviews to the press about Miers’ qualifications for the bench-including information about her religious beliefs and views on abortion-after her Oct. 3, 2005, nomination. At that time, Hecht jokingly said to Texas Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal, that he had been acting as a “P.R. office for the White House.” In its recent admonition, the commission found that Hecht’s actions constituted “persistent and willful violations” of two canons of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 2b states that “a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.” And Canon 5(2) states that “a judge or judicial candidate shall not authorize the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, except that either may indicate support for a political party.” A dying judge’s last ruling reinstates bias suit In the final days of his battle with cancer, 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edward R. Becker remained hard at work finalizing a groundbreaking opinion handed down last week-four days after his death-that revives a high-ranking minister’s sex discrimination suit against a Catholic university. In Petruska v. Gannon University, Becker held that the “ministerial exception” to Title VII should be “carefully tailored” and applied only when the alleged discrimination somehow relates to “religious belief, religious doctrine, or the internal regulations of a church.” As a result, Becker concluded, the ministerial exception does not prohibit a minister from suing for sexual harassment or sex discrimination. But in a spirited dissent, Judge D. Brooks Smith said he rejected Becker’s attempt to adopt a “carefully tailored” version of the ministerial exception. Buchanan talks merger with Klett Rooney two of the larger law firms in Pennsylvania-and two giants in the Pittsburgh legal community-are far along in merger talks with the possibility of an agreement coming “sooner rather than later.” Sources in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg legal communities all confirmed Buchanan Ingersoll and Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling were talking about a merger, with some of them suggesting it was all but a done deal. If completed-and barring any major defections or restructuring-it would make the combined firm the largest in Pennsylvania with an estimated 313 lawyers in the state, according to the last survey conducted by PaLaw, a National Law Journal affiliate. Reed Smith is currently listed as the largest firm in Pennsylvania with 308 attorneys in the state. The combined firm would have approximately 532 lawyers across all offices, PaLaw said. A source who did not wish to be identified said there have been meetings between the firms, as well as internal ones, but nothing has been signed. That source added that attorneys at the firms have been informed about the developments and that an agreement could happen “sooner rather than later.”

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