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The following are some of the actions the U.S. Supreme Court took last week, the first of its new term: The justices declined to hear a petition for review by Sidley Austin on whether former partners can seek monetary damages or other individual relief in an age-discrimination lawsuit brought last year against the firm by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC sued the law firm in January 2005 over its demotion of some attorneys from partner status in 1999 and a Sidley retirement policy that, the EEOC alleges, forced out attorneys after age 65, saying the firm violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Of the 32 attorneys who were downgraded from partner status, 27 have asked the EEOC to represent them in the litigation, which is ongoing in the Northern District of Illinois, the agency said. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held in February that the commission had the authority to seek relief on behalf of the Sidley attorneys affected by the discrimination. “Although the Supreme Court did not address the ultimate merits of the question, the court’s decision to deny Sidley’s request for review leaves the 7th Circuit decision in the our case standing as the controlling law for the duration of this case through a jury verdict,” John Hendrickson, a regional attorney for the commission, said in a release. The law firm did not immediately have a comment. The EEOC said it is seeking monetary damages and other relief, such as reinstatement for the attorneys who lost partner status. The commission began its probe of the firm after receiving what it called a “confidential complaint from within the firm,” as opposed to a formal charge by an individual. The probe was also triggered by public statements from Sidley’s management that partners had been downgraded to create opportunities for younger lawyers and references to its age-based retirement policy, the commission said. U.S. District Judge James Zagel rejected the firm’s argument that the attorneys shouldn’t be able to seek damages or individual relief. Sidley had argued they weren’t eligible because they had not filed individual charges of discrimination with the EEOC, The justices asked the solicitor general of the United States for the government’s views on two high court petitions for review by foreign lawyers challenging state barriers to practicing in this country. The justices’ request came in Wallace v. Calogero, No, 05-1645, and Leclerc v. Webb, No. 06-11. The Wallace case involves two citizens of the United Kingdom, and the Leclerc case is brought by one Canadian and three French attorneys-all legal nonimmigrants who hold temporary visas and who are barred from practicing law by Louisiana Bar Rule 3(B). [NLJ, Sept. 25]. That rule provides that every applicant for admission to the bar must be “a citizen of the United States or a resident alien thereof.” The Louisiana Supreme Court enforces that rule, and in 2002, it reversed its decades-old, prior interpretation and declared that “resident alien” referred only to aliens who were entitled to permanent residence in the United States. The foreign lawyers, one of whom is a graduate of Tulane University Law School, argue that the bar rule constitutes unconstitutional discrimination against aliens. Jeffrey Sarles of Chicago’s Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, counsel to the Leclerc petitioners, said the high court’s request for the solicitor general’s views “shows that there’s at least some interest on the Court in the issues presented-enough to solicit the views of the United States.” The justices refused to step into a First Amendment issue involving Gloria Allred, a California lawyer who was the subject of a judge’s gag order in a high-profile murder case that is now over. Allred, an outspoken television personality, represented a teenage girl who testified at the trial of Scott Dyleski, now 17. Dyleski was sentenced last week to life in prison without parole for the killing of Pamela Vitale, the wife of television legal analyst Daniel Horowitz. Allred’s lawyers, including constitutional lawyer Erwin Chemerinsky, say judges increasingly are engaging in prior restraint of free speech rights in important cases.

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