Toyota Motor Corp. has won the first bellwether trial over sudden-acceleration defects after a Los Angeles jury found no design defects caused the death of 66-year-old Noriko Uno, who was driving a 2006 Camry. The jury found fault on the part of another driver whose Lexus struck Uno just before her car began accelerating down a residential road in Upland, Calif. Uno’s survivors claimed that Toyota failed to install a brake override system that would have automatically shut off the engine and saved her life.

COURT SHOWS SKEPTICISM

The worst fears of campaign finance reformers played out in real time last week in the U.S. Supreme Court as a majority of justices appeared disinclined to make another campaign contribution barrier. In arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a deep divide on the court over First Amendment speech protection and campaign finance limits surfaced again. Three years ago, in Citizens United, the court stuck down restrictions on political independent expenditures by corporations. This time, the challenge targets federal limits on the total amount of money an individual may contribute to candidates and political groups in a two-year election cycle.

CONSISTENT LEADERS

The same three law firms have landed in the top tier of the major rankings that track mergers and acquisitions deals. Each of the so-called league tables released by Bloomberg, Mergermarket and Thomson Reuters ranked Davis Polk & Wardwell; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in varying order, as the top three firms based on the total value of their corporate clients’ M&A transactions over the first nine months of 2013.

HALTED EXTERNSHIPS

Law students and law school administrators are cobbling ­together alternatives to government externships halted by the shutdown. Externship coordinators at Washington-area law schools have been scrambling to find short-term projects at local nonprofit legal services providers that students can work on in the meantime. Many students stand to lose credit toward their law degrees because of suspended government jobs.

SAME-SEX CASE ACCELERATED

The federal judge hearing a challenge to Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage said he will decide by mid-November if there’s anything left of the case to go to trial. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania told a dozen lawyers who gathered in his Harrisburg courtroom at a case management conference that he plans to order an expedited briefing schedule in the closely watched case. He’ll resolve all motions by the middle of next month, Jones estimated.

LAW REVIEWS NEED REVAMP

Judges, law professors, practicing attorneys and law review student editors alike believe that the current law review model needs reform, according to an article based on a survey of how those in the legal community view legal journals. Law review articles are too long and don’t meet the needs of attorneys and judges, according to the results in “Do Law Reviews Need Reform,” in the latest edition of the Loyola Law Review, published by Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. The authors queried 325 law professors, 338 student editors, 215 attorneys and 156 judges about how they view the current system and how they’d like it to change.

FRUSTRATED BY SHUTDOWN

Calling the ongoing government shutdown a “very frustrating time for all of us,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. issued a letter last week to U.S. Department of Justice employees to try to boost morale. To keep employees informed, the Justice Department plans to update a special section on its website to include information about pay, ethics and other shutdown-related issues, Holder said in the letter. The attorney general addressed both furloughed and nonfurloughed employees, and reiterated “how important each and every one of you is to the Department of Justice’s mission.”