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Former Solicitor General Kenneth Starr used to complain that the Supreme Court had lost interest in business disputes because law clerks were more interested in nude dancing cases. Not anymore. Nary a strip joint can be found on the Court’s docket, but its calendar has been teeming with big business cases, most notably, in 2007, Stoneridge Investments v. Scientific-Atlanta, billed as one of the most important business disputes before the Court in decades. No doubt lawyers are magnifying the significance of Stoneridge because one particular business�the business of law � could be a big loser, depending on the outcome. At issue: whether the deep pockets of third parties � “bystanders,” as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls them � such as law firms and vendors can be liable to aggrieved shareholders when companies like Enron go bust. Law firms could suffer “catastrophic” losses if such “scheme liability” is allowed, one brief warns the Court. No decision has been issued yet in the case, but the betting is that Mayer Brown appellate star Stephen Shapiro got the win for third-party defendants during his Oct. 9 oral argument. If he does, it will be yet another victory for business defendants in the Roberts Court. The National Chamber Litigation Center celebrated its best term ever in its 30 years’ existence, winning 13 of the 16 cases it briefed. “They are realizing there are extensive social costs to expanding litigation,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Ted Frank. The biggest bouquet the Court handed business in 2007 may be Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, a sleeper that made few headlines. “ Twombly is the winner” for 2007, says Roy Englert Jr. of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber. It tightened pleading standards, meaning plaintiffs must allege more facts in their initial filings, discouraging frivolous suits or suits aimed at extracting a settlement.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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