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N.Y.’s indigent defense system called a failure New York’s indigent defense “system” is in such disarray and so grossly fails to meet its state and federal constitutional mandate that it is beyond salvation, a commission appointed by the state’s chief judge reported last week. The Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services concluded that not even an overhaul can fix the problems. Rather, it proposes scrapping the time-honored yet roundly criticized patchwork defense network and replacing it with a new statewide state-funded system governed by consistent regulations and standards. It called for an Indigent Defense Commission that would assume responsibility for services across the state. Thelen, Brown may be one step closer to altar A marriage between Thelen Reid & Priest and New York’s Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner is becoming a distinct possibility, and an agreement could be announced later this summer, according to sources at both firms. The two firms have been talking for at least three months and one Brown Raysman source characterized the discussions as “advanced.” The firms have shared financial information, although they haven’t yet approached rank-and-file partners or signed a letter of intent, the sources said. But Peter Brown of Brown Raysman said talks with Thelen “are not at an advanced stage.” Sonnenschein names youngest chairman Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal has named Elliott I. Portnoy as its next chairman, succeeding Duane C. Quaini in 2007, when Quaini’s term of office expires. Quaini, 61, has been chairman of the firm since 1997. At age 40, the Washington-based Portnoy will be the firm’s youngest partner to serve as chairman, and the first outside Chicago to be chairman. Portnoy is a member of the firm’s policy and planning committee and serves on its strategic planning steering committee. He joined Sonnenschein in 2002 as the founding chairman of the firm’s public law and policy strategies group. Since then, the group has launched multiple new practice offerings. Sonnenschein has more than 700 attorneys and other professionals in 10 U.S. cities. The firm’s largest office is in Chicago. California courts win big in new budget deal In a major political win for judicial leaders, California lawmakers were expected last week to approve a $131 billion budget that includes money for 50 new judgeships and an 8.5% raise for judges on Jan. 1, 2007. The deal also earmarks $10 million for interpreters in civil cases and includes assurances from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that his future judicial appointments will be more ethnically diverse. The one-time, 8.5% pay raise will be added to a statutory annual cost-of-living increase that legislative analysts expect will be between 3% and 4%. Trial judges currently earn $149,160. Subpoena for ex-Conn. chief justice is quashed A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of former Connecticut Chief Justice William J. Sullivan last week, granting Sulllivan’s extraordinary motion to quash a subpoena that would have compelled his testimony before the state Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Waterbury Superior Court Judge Dennis G. Eveleigh issued a temporary injunction barring Sullivan’s requisite attendance at the legislative hearing scheduled for June 27 and thereafter. Eveleigh ruled that the separation of powers doctrine supported Sullivan’s motion. The subpoena attempted to compel Sullivan’s presence at the committee’s inquiry into Sullivan’s alleged misconduct concerning the nomination of Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Peter T. Zarella as the next chief justice. [NLJ, June 26.]

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