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MDL Judge Raises Two Houston judges who manage the pretrial dockets for thousands of suits brought by persons who claim they have suffered injuries from exposure to asbestos or silica will move a step closer to receiving hefty raises in the state’s next two-year budget cycle if the Texas Senate passes S.B. 749 on April 26. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, is on the Senate’s local and consent calendar. The Senate passes bills on that calendar without debate. S.B. 749 would provide pay increases of $33,000 each to 11th District Judge Mark Davidson and 295th District Judge Tracy Christopher. Those raises, if approved, would increase Davidson’s and Christopher’s salaries to $173,000 � the same pay received by the state’s regional presiding judges who also are active district judges. The pay increase also would boost Davidson’s and Christopher’s pay higher than the $152,500 salaries the state pays its top two judges, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller. Jefferson declines comment on the bill through a spokesman. Keller says she’s surprised but not bothered by the fact that the bill would increase other judges’ pay to more than she makes. Janek says the raises for Davidson and Christopher are necessary because of the additional work that their multidistrict litigation (MDL) duties impose on them. Christopher did not return two telephone calls seeking comment before presstime on April 19. Davidson says he can’t conclude the bill is unjust given the level of administration imposed on him and Christopher. The state created the MDL so that certain judges could handle cases from all over the state. Davidson says he is handling about 85,500 asbestos claims and Christopher is handling about 5,000 silica claims. The MDL work is in addition to their regular dockets, Davidson says. “The state turned Judge Christopher and me into statewide officers,” Davidson says. S.B. 749, which Janek characterizes as a clean-up bill, also would enable the MDL judges to request a writ of mandamus from an intermediate court of appeals to force the judge in whose court a case was filed to set a hearing or trial. Davidson says some of the cases he administers involve plaintiffs whose deaths are imminent. “A few district judges have declined to honor trial settings which they had committed to me they would honor,” Davidson says. Real Estate Market Seven real estate lawyers, coming from a variety of firms, have joined Thompson & Knight, boosting the 420-attorney firm’s real estate and banking practice to 54 lawyers. Five of the new lawyers began work at the firm’s Dallas office in March, and two joined in New York this month. The firm has wanted to expand its real estate practice into New York for a while, says Alfred Meyerson, chairman of the practice group, and he is pleased the firm was able to hire John B. Wood and Bohdan “Bud” S. Kosovych from New York’s Sussman, Sollis, Tweedy & Wood. “We’ve wanted to expand into New York for the obvious reasons of being the money capital for the world, and there’s so much real estate going on there,” Meyerson says. Wood and Bohdan joined the firm as partner and of counsel respectively. Wood says Sussman, Sollis lost most of its lawyers to retirement. Because of that, he was looking to move his practice to a large firm with a strong cross-border practice, and Thompson & Knight fit the bill. “And it was the nicest firm,” he notes. Wood says his clients include Colliers ABR Inc., a commercial real estate firm in New York. In Dallas, Jay Gibson and Laura McClellan joined as partners, while Misty Willcox, Sean D. Hawkins and Meg Squiers came on as associates. Gibson came from Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons in Dallas, and McClellan, a one-time Thompson & Knight associate, left Foster Pepper in Seattle, where she had been a partner. Gibson says he joined Thompson & Knight for professional opportunity but declines further comment. McClellan says she moved back to Dallas from Seattle to be close to family and is excited to return to the firm. She says she brought several clients but declines to identify them. According to a spokeswoman for Thompson & Knight, Willcox had been at Dallas-based Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, Hawkins came from Vinson & Elkins and Squiers returned to Thompson & Knight after taking a leave.

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