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Over the years, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based trial consultant Amy Singer has made a national name for herself helping lawyers get inside the heads of prospective jurors. Now, she’s using those techniques to help herself in her breach of contract suit against giant West Publishing Corp. Singer, a pioneer in the field of litigation psychology, sued West Publishing in U.S. District Court in Miami last year for allegedly reneging on a potentially lucrative deal in July 2000 to publish Singer’s litigation databases in Westlaw, its online legal research service, or by some other electronic means. She is seeking $5 million in damages. Based in West Eagan, Minn., West Publishing is a subsidiary of Thomson Corp., the Canadian global information provider. West denies Singer’s allegations. In court papers, West said it always intended to publish the Singer databases, but encountered difficulty in “obtaining and reading data” and marketing and making decisions regarding resource allocation. West said it worked diligently to make the project happen until Singer herself pulled the plug in September. Thomson acquired West Publishing in 1996 for $3.4 billion. Trial of Singer’s claim against West Publishing is scheduled for the first week of January before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages in Miami. Singer’s databases are the product of more than 20 years in the business of jury psychology under the corporate name Trial Consulting Inc. The databases include descriptions of thousands of possible problems litigators may encounter and offer specific solutions based on psychological research. Many lawyers say they find Singer’s databases useful when they try to cherry pick jurors who are likely to sympathize with their clients. One database contains more than 30,000 questions that lawyers can ask when questioning potential jurors about their attitudes and biases in 80 types of cases, such as medical malpractice and product liability. In the 1980s, Singer consulted for the defense team that represented Carlos Lehder, the imprisoned Colombian drug lord. In the 1990s, she put together focus groups that yielded strategy insights that veteran West Palm Beach plaintiff lawyer Robert M. Montgomery Jr. credits with being crucial to the state of Florida’s multibillion-dollar settlement of its enormous lawsuit against the tobacco companies. “I’ve used her in every case from soup to nuts,” Montgomery said. “Once you choose a jury, ordinarily the case is over. In my opinion, she has no peer.” “I think she’s just wonderful,” said Coral Gables, Fla., litigator Ervin Gonzalez, who uses Singer’s jury simulations to test the appeal of a case with the public and assess the value of a case. Gonzalez, a partner at Colson Hicks Eidson, was part of a team that just negotiated a $100 million settlement with Houston-based funeral services giant Service Corporation International in a cemetery desecration case. ‘DIDN’T GET JOB DONE’ In an interview, Singer, who earned a Ph.D. in applied research psychology at Hofstra University in 1979, said that she backed out of a deal with another litigation support company, Doar Communications of New York, to sign with West. She said she made that decision after a West official estimated that she might expect to earn as much as $1.8 million in royalties over five years. She said Doar is “now competing against me.” But West Publishing never published her materials. “Why didn’t they do what they said they’d do?” asked Singer’s lead attorney, Jon R. Pearce, a partner in Shuttleworth & Ingersoll in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “It’s just such a big corporation and the person in charge of moving this forward just didn’t get the job done. There’s no evil conspiracy here. It just didn’t happen.” Singer’s local counsel is Michael J. Higer, a partner at Mintz Truppman Clein & Higer in North Miami. West has argued that its contract with Singer left matters about when to publish up “to the publisher’s good faith business judgment.” “The agreement in this case, the product of extensive discussion and negotiation over a two-year period, contains no reference whatsoever to the timing of the publication,” said court papers filed late last month by West’s attorneys. “It is a colossal waste of this court’s time and resources � to permit this trial to go forward.” West Publishing is represented by James F. Rittinger and Mark Lerner, partners at Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke in New York. Shutts & Bowen partner Jonathan Cohen is local counsel for West. The six-member jury’s verdict may turn on what it ultimately decides would have been a “reasonable” period of time for West to have published Singer’s databases. Singer has said in her court papers that West executives repeatedly failed to honor their own deadlines, before finally trying to bring to market an inferior version of her product a year after she filed her lawsuit. LAST HURRAH? For the upcoming trial, Singer is acting as her own jury consultant. The federal court system cramps Singer’s style, however. That’s because only a federal judge can directly question jury candidates during the voir dire process, unlike in the state courts, where lawyers for the parties can ask questions and she can work with them in shaping the questions. Still, both sides can suggest possible questions to Judge Ungaro-Benages. Singer has offered dozens of possibilities for her lawyers. One of the more interesting is: “Have you ever been ‘strung along’ by someone?” Singer, 50, said she plans to have colleagues stationed in court to watch jurors for clues to how they are thinking as the case unfolds. Also, she plans to pick a “shadow jury” of her own to serve as a mirror of the actual jury and provide feedback. “This may be my last hurrah,” Singer said with a laugh. “If I win, I could retire. And if I lose, I’ve pulled out all the guns.” Her attorney, Jon Pearce, said he appreciates his client’s special skills and plans to exploit them. He’s used trial consultants before and found them helpful. Still, he said he would decide how to proceed in the courthouse. “In the end,” he said, “I can’t let the client decide how to try the case.”

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