Skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Oleg Zhukov / iStockphoto.com.)
Six years after it opened, Holland & Knight is closing its Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, office and exiting the Middle East. “In keeping with our strategic priorities, we are focusing on expansion in the Western Hemisphere,” the firm said. Hogan Lovells closed its own Abu Dhabi office in 2012, transferring lawyers to Dubai. Other firms with an office in Abu Dhabi, the second most populous city in the Emirates, include Vinson & Elkins and Allen & Overy.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for the first time on July 1 explicitly claimed appellate jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to patent laws. The balance Congress has struck between the Federal Circuit and the regional appellate courts “would be upset by placing jurisdiction over interpretations of the [America Invents Act] and an assessment of its constitutional validity in the hands of any circuit other than this one,” Judge Kathleen O’Malley wrote for a unanimous panel. The court rejected a small inventor’s challenge to the act’s “first-to-file” provision.
FRACKING BANS UPHELD
Localities may use zoning ordinances to restrict or ban oil and gas production — including the extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing — without violating state mining laws, New York state’s highest court ruled on June 30. By a 5-2 vote, the Court of Appeals held that a state pre­emption applies only to ordinances that seek to supplant the state’s role as regulator of the “safety, technical and operational aspects of oil and gas activities across the state” — not local zoning laws.
LAW SCHOOL LOSES LAWSUIT
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on July 2 affirmed a trial judge’s dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought by Thomas M. Cooley Law School against three plaintiffs lawyers who sued the school for alleged fraud in 2011. The ruling followed dismissal by a federal judge in New York of a separate defamation countersuit brought by one of the plaintiffs attorneys against Cooley. That judge said she lacked jurisdiction over the Michigan law school. The suits stemmed from statements the plaintiffs attorneys posted online while seeking ammunition for a class action against Cooley on behalf of graduates who claimed the school misrepresented its postgraduate employment statistics.
WHO OWNS FEES?
The hourly fees earned on client matters that attorneys take with them when switching firms are not the “property” or the “unfinished business” of their old partnerships, New York state’s highest court ruled on July 1 in a case involving the bankruptcies of Thelen and Coudert Brothers. “A law firm does not own a client or an engagement, and is only entitled to be paid for services actually rendered,” Judge Susan Phillips Read wrote for the Court of Appeals. Attorneys in the two cases said the 7-0 ruling clarified what trustees can seek from former firm attorneys.
BONDS’ SECOND TIME AT BAT
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 1 agreed to rehear en banc Barry Bonds’ 2011 conviction for obstruction of ­justice, giving Major League Baseball’s home run record-holder another chance to clear his name in a ­steroids scandal. A three-judge panel in 2013 affirmed a jury’s finding that Bonds’ testimony had been “evasive, misleading, and capable of influencing a grand jury to minimize the role of the player’s trainer in the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.”
NEW CHIEF IN FLORIDA
Jorge Labarga was sworn in on June 30 as the first Cuban-American chief justice of Florida. The former Palm Beach County trial judge is widely seen as a centrist who tends to side with four justices perceived as more liberal. He is a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law who worked as an assistant public defender and prosecutor before entering private practice at Cone, Wagner, Nugent, Roth, Romano & Ericksen in West Palm Beach. In 1992, he help found Roth, Duncan & Labarga.