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STANDOFF IN MIAMI Ira Kurzban has gone before the cameras as a talking head about Eli�n Gonzalez, but the immigration expert now has a highly charged dispute of his own. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks recently sanctioned Kurzban and his brother Marvin, a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, for their courtroom style. The Kurzbans, partners at their own Miami law firm, convinced a jury that American Eagle Airlines had subjected former employee Anthony Lee to a racially hostile environment. The jurors awarded Lee $950,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Middlebrooks, however, body-slammed the brothers when they requested $1.6 million in fees for the 4-year-old case. He gave them $312,000, accompanied by a 25-page order written in snarling first-person noir and overflowing with one purported episode after another of discourtesy and trash-talking. Team Kurzban, he charged, refused to shake the opposing attorney’s hand, barked, “Yuppies out of the way” when exiting the courtroom, and misled a witness. The brothers said that the judge, a former defense attorney at Miami’s Steel Hector & Davis, “has exhibited extreme bias in this case.” They argued that he had let the trial turn into “a circus-like atmosphere.” They rolled their eyes. Flailed their arms. Laughed at the judge’s ruling, and denied laughing seconds later. The judge conceded that airline counsel Morgan Lewis & Bockius also contributed a harsh tone and disrespect to the racially charged tempest. But it was only the brother-litigators whose “belligerence spread through the courtroom like a contagion.” The judge slashed Ira’s hourly fee from $300 to $150; Marvin’s, he set at $0. Marvin’s antics made the judge sound like a substitute teacher stuck guarding detention: “Mr. Kurzban’s comment was suited more to a locker room than a courtroom of the United States.” And “Mr. Kurzban’s testimony reflects that he has no clue about what it means to be a lawyer.” The brothers’ lawyer, G. Richard Strafer, says that the judge’s order ignores evidence of serious parallel misconduct by Morgan Lewis. He has challenged the sanction in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The hotheads can revive their mutual contempt on June 27, when briefs are due. PLEASE DON’T GO Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, eager to become a genuine bicoastal contender, is preparing to welcome aboard 130 lawyers from New York’s Battle Fowler, including $40 million rainmaker Martin Edelman. The Los Angeles-based firm has sent offer letters inviting BF associates to stay on after the deal closes, confirms managing partner Seth Zachary. Not just young lawyers bolt top firms to seek their fortune. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati managing partner Alan Austin has announced he’s leaving the firm for the executive suite of a young company. FUNNY MONEY Federal prosecutors indicted Judge George J.W. Smith, of Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court, in May on allegations that he structured a $21,100 bank withdrawal over three days in April 1995 to skirt a federal law that requires banks to report any withdrawals of more than $10,000. Smith’s estranged wife, as it happens, alleged in a divorce deposition that her husband took out $20,000 to pay off a politician to secure his appointment to the bench, although that isn’t mentioned in the indictment. Smith first donned robes in March 1995. He has pleaded not guilty and agreed to give a handwriting sample to prosecutors. His lawyer, Thomas Breen, has said the judge took out the money to pay for home repairs.

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