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Leaving Winstead Bracewell & Giuliani recently beefed up its corporate and securities practice in Dallas when it hired three lawyers from Winstead in Dallas, including Bruce Cheatham, who had been head of Winstead’s corporate and securities section. Cheatham and Brice Tarzwell joined Bracewell as partners on Feb. 21, along with counsel Connie Stamets. Cheatham says they made the move, because they were impressed with 400-lawyer Bracewell’s corporate and securities practice and its energy practice. Also, Cheatham says, Houston-based Bracewell has offices in New York and Washington, D.C., and an international presence, and that’s helpful for their practices. Cheatham and Tarzwell decline to identify clients they brought with them to Bracewell. Gregory Bopp, a partner in Houston who is firmwide co-chairman of Bracewell’s corporate and securities section, says the firm is committed to growing the practice in Dallas, and Cheatham, Tarzwell and Stamets are “very experienced, highly regarded.” He notes, “Dallas is a very important and strategic market for us.” Following Cheatham’s departure, Winstead reorganized, and Cheatham’s position as corporate and securities section head no longer exists, Winstead spokeswoman Shannon Tipton says. She says Dallas shareholder Mark Johnson heads the corporate securities and mergers and acquisitions department, which is the one closest to the section Cheatham used to oversee. Deadline Passes Judge Alex Gabert of the 229th District Court in Rio Grande City allowed a March 7 deadline to pass without taking action on Merck & Co.’s motion for a new trial in a Vioxx case in which the drug manufacturer faces an $8.7 million judgment, says Anna Saenz, Gabert’s court coordinator. Gabert’s inaction effectively denied the company’s motion in Felicia Garza, et al. v. Merck & Co., a suit brought by the family of 71-year-old Leonel Garza Sr., who suffered a fatal heart attack in April 2001 after taking the painkiller Vioxx. “I was a little surprised,” says Joe Escobar, one of the attorneys for Garza’s family and a partner in Escobedo, Tippit & Cardenas in McAllen. “I assumed he was going to deny it and actually do an order.” In April 2006, the jury in Garza returned a $32 million judgment that included $25 million in punitive damages. Because Texas law limits punitive damages to $750,000, Gabert reduced the award to $8.7 million, Escobedo says. Merck faces a March 21 deadline for filing an appeal in Garza in San Antonio’s 4th Court of Appeals. “We can now move forward with the appeal, where we believe the evidence and the law strongly support Merck,” says Travis Sales, a partner in Houston’s Baker Botts who is one of the attorneys representing Merck. TYC Investigation Amid allegations of sexual abuse of children housed in Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facilities, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has tapped a lawyer to investigate. On March 2, Perry announced that he had nominated Texas A&M University System deputy general counsel Jay T. Kimbrough to serve as TYC special master. Perry spokesman Ted Royer says Kimbrough’s qualifications are uniquely suited to his new assignment. “He is a bulldog who will pursue his mission with tenacity,” Royer says of Kimbrough. “I don’t think there is anyone in the state who has a record comparable to that of Kimbrough’s for turning around state agencies,” Royer adds. Kimbrough will take a temporary leave of absence from his post at Texas A&M. As special master of TYC, he will report directly to the governor and will lead an investigation of TYC policies and procedures. He also will look into allegations of reported failures and wrongdoing by TYC staff members, who oversee 22 facilities in Texas in which delinquent youth stay. Kimbrough made headlines last week when he dispatched 72 law enforcement officers to investigate the allegations of abuse at the TYC facilities � an unprecedented move. During his stint in 2000 as executive director of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Kimbrough received credit for turning around that agency, which the Office of the State Auditor had concluded had serious weaknesses in contract oversight management. A 1978 graduate of South Texas College of Law, Kimbrough also has served as deputy attorney general at the Texas Office of the Attorney General and as Perry’s deputy chief of staff, among other roles. Kimbrough did not return a telephone call seeking comment before presstime.

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