Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, Southern District of New York
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, Southern District of New York (Rick Kopstein/NYLJ)

Note: The headline for an In Brief item published on April 21 misreported the status of a professional disciplinary matter against former U.S. Office of Special Counsel chief Scott Bloch. A State Bar Court of California judge recommended that he be barred from practicing law for 30 days for his role in the deletion of files from federally owned computers.

A federal judge ruled on April 17 that victims of South African apartheid can seek compensation from three Fortune 100 companies under the Alien Tort Statute, directly contradicting a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling in another case implicating that law. In a 30-page decision, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York held that Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and International Business Machines Corp. can be held liable because they provided equipment to the South African government.

FIRMS REPORT LAYOFFS

Since the start of the year, seven prominent U.S. law firms have cut nonlawyer payrolls and at least three also let associates go. All told, the firms shed an estimated 213 jobs, with five out of every six from the support staff ranks. The firms include New York intellectual property specialist Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto and Northeastern firm Nixon Peabody. Also trimming jobs were Bingham McCutchen; Edwards Wildman Palmer; Husch Blackwell; Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman; and Downey Brand, an 80-attorney Sacramento-based firm.

FORMER GLOCK GC SUES CITY

A former general counsel for Glock Inc. is seeking civil damages from the city of Smyrna, Ga., for launching an unwarranted ­criminal investigation of him at what he claims was Glock’s behest. Paul Jannuzzo was convicted in 2012 of engaging in a racketeering scheme to siphon corporate funds from the Glock Group and stealing a gun the company assigned to him, but the Georgia Supreme Court threw out the charges on statute-of-­limitations ground. Glock is headquartered in the Atlanta suburb.

DA DOUBTED CONVICTION

Newly public documents in a wrongful conviction case of show that former Brooklyn, N.Y., District Attorney Charles Hynes has long believed that Jabbar Collins was not guilty of murdering a rabbi, and also that the district attorney’s office held reluctant witnesses in custody. The city, defending itself in a federal civil action, maintains that Collins was guilty, even though the conviction was vacated amidst allegations of misconduct by the lead prosecutor, Michael Vecchione. Collins served 16 years in prison.

REGULATORY ACTIONS UP

U.S. corporate legal departments saw the number of regulatory actions increase for the third year in a row, according to a survey released on April 15 by Norton Rose Fulbright. In the survey of 401 in-house lawyers, about 20 percent said their companies faced a regulatory investigation matter in 2013, up from 9 percent in 2012. The increase was most evident among technology and communications companies — 27 percent versus 10 percent in 2012. About 71 percent of responders spent an average of $1 million or more — a significant jump over the 53 percent reported in 2011 and 2012.

‘YELP’ BILL PROPOSED

California lawmakers will propose legislation to crack down on companies that use nondisparagement clauses to discourage customers from criticizing their products and services online. Dubbed the Yelp bill, the measure would bar a retailer or service provider from forcing customers to waive their rights to comment about their experiences “unless the waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.” Customers, the state attorney general and county district attorneys could sue violators for as-yet unspecified civil penalties under the proposal.

BLOCH SUSPENDED

A State Bar Court of California judge has recommended that Scott Bloch, former head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, be barred from practicing law in the state for 30 days for his role in the deletion of files from federally owned computers. Bloch, appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2003, by early 2005 was under investigation for allegedly retaliating against whistleblowers, but hired a technician from Geeks on Call who wiped files from his and other government computers. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of depredation of government property.