Archive for April, 2006

New Digs for Asian Law Caucus

April 28, 2006

The Asian Law Caucus, which bills itself as the oldest civil rights organization for Asians in the United States, on Thursday celebrated more than three decades of advocacy on behalf of Asians and Pacific Islanders. "And it has done this the past 34 years without taking steroids," caucus board member Larry Lowe, senior counsel at Apple Computer, told a crowd of about 600 gathered at the Marriott hotel in San Francisco.

Caucus leaders used the event to announce plans for a new home at 53 Columbus St. in Chinatown and to honor two stalwarts of the Asian community in the Bay Area: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partner Kevin Fong and UC-Berkeley professor Ronald Takaki.

Caucus chairman Monty Agarwal described Fong as "the godfather of the Asian bar" — Fong became the first Asian-American partner at what was then Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in 1987, and has served as president of the Asian Pacific Bar of California and the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area.

Takaki, meanwhile, took aim at the recent Congressional push for immigration reform. Some 1 million Asians are in the country illegally, Takaki said, with many having entered legally but then finding it impossible to negotiate the INS bureaucracy when their visas expired.

I would like to see immigration reform include reform of the immigration bureaucracy," Takaki declared.

The immigration crackdown was on the minds of many caucus leaders. "The debate by any measure has been destructive," said Agarwal, a partner at Bingham McCutchen.

— Scott Graham


An Invitation You Can’t Refuse

April 28, 2006

When a Falun Gong activist shouted at Chinese President Hu Jintao during a press conference on the South Lawn of the White House on April 20, California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin wasn’t watching it on TV.

He was there to see the whole thing in person.

Chin and his wife, Carol, were among dozens of dignitaries who had been invited by the Bush administration to attend a White House luncheon honoring the Chinese leader. Other guests included William Ford Jr., chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Co., and his wife Lisa; figure skating champion Michelle Kwan; Yale University President Richard Levin; and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Chin said he spoke briefly with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer — who confided he wasn’t a regular White House invitee either — and faced a mini social crisis when he entered a room and saw Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on one side and Nixon administration Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the other.

Chin, a solid Republican, said he told his wife he didn’t know who to speak to first. (He opted for Kissinger).

Chin also said he was surprised to be invited in the first place and thought about not attending. After all, he’s still on the mend for surgery earlier this year for subdural bleeding.

“When I told [state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George] about it, I told him, ‘I’m not sure I’m up to that,’” Chin said, “and he said, ‘Oh, you have to go.’”

But one has to wonder if Chin will be invited back.

In August 2005, he recalled, while serving as a delegate to the World Jurists Conference in Beijing at the invitation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a woman in Tiananmen Square also began screaming. And guess about what? You’ve got it. The mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners.

Coincidence? Chin certainly hopes so.

— Mike McKee

Rocky Makes TV Debut With One-Two Punch

April 25, 2006

Attorney general candidate Rocky Delgadillo comes out swinging in his first television ad, a 30-second piece launched today on San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento stations. 

Although a recent Field Poll found that most Californians don’t know Delgadillo, the Los Angeles city attorney didn’t tape a traditional warm and fuzzy “let me introduce myself” spot. Instead, he accuses Democratic primary opponent Jerry Brown of flip-flopping on his support of abortion rights. 

Sitting in front of a jury box — a visual retort to Brown’s claims that he’s just a bureaucratic pencil-pusher — Delgadillo calls his opponent’s statements “disturbing” and assures viewers “I’ll protect your right to choose.” Delgadillo’s shot at Brown is a familiar one, and one that the Oakland mayor says is false politicking by a candidate 41 points behind in the last Field Poll. 

But don’t expect Delgadillo to soften his TV image anytime soon. His campaign announced Monday that it has purchased $2 million worth of ad time between now and the June 6 primary. “It’s the start of a campaign where we intend to compare and contrast the two candidates,” Delgadillo campaign consultant Steve Smith said. 

— Cheryl Miller

Tapping Into Wiretap Case

April 24, 2006

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have already complained about secret wiretapping by the National Security Agency with a lawsuit against the government in January. So it’s only fitting that they’d make a push to get involved in the latest litigation over the program — the highly publicized suit in San Francisco federal court accusing AT&T of letting the government spy on all of its customers’ Web and phone conversations.

In an amicus brief filed Monday, the two groups argued that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker should unseal heretofore secret evidence filed by plaintiff lawyers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins. Specifically, they want to see the paperwork provided to plaintiffs by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T engineer who says he saw — and kept documentation of — a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco offices that was used for eavesdropping.

AT&T says the documents contain trade secrets and have demanded them back. Plaintiff lawyers disagree. But the author of the ACLU and CCR brief — San Francisco immigration lawyer Marc Van Der Hout, who is also affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild — said that even if they are trade secrets, the decision of whether to keep the papers sealed must be made using a different standard than that used for discovery documents.

“The Klein Documents were acquired by EFF independently, from a third party who is not a party to this lawsuit,” Van Der Hout wrote. “Because they were not acquired through the discovery process, this Court’s broad powers to seal documents in the course of supervising the discovery process do not apply.”

— Justin Scheck

Gender Diversity: It’s Harsh in the Spotlight

April 21, 2006

It’s a mixed bag when it comes to women entering the partnership ranks this year, according to the Project for Attorney Retention, an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings College of the Law. While more and more firms have partner classes that are 25 to 33 percent female, that’s still less than the percentage of women entering firms, according to the project’s report.

Among the firms getting kudos for their proportions were three based in
California: Four of the six members of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s newest partnership class were women; five of the nine new partners at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe were women; and half of Thelen, Reid & Priest’s eight new partners were female.

The report also cites firms with the lowest partner proportions. These include Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice; White & Case; Holland & Hart; Shearman & Sterling; and Dewey Ballantine — all of which have no women in their recent partner promotions.

Gibson, Dunn partner Karen Bertero, a member of the firm’s diversity and hiring committees, said that the firm’s strides in creating a viable part-time policy, as well as mentoring and retention efforts, have boosted the percentage of women entering the partnership.

“We always try to focus on retaining people we think are successful,” Bertero said. “Often, it’s more of a struggle to keep women because a lot of people make choices based on lifestyle.”

This year’s numbers are part of an increasing pattern of more women entering the firm’s partnership ranks, all of whom will be equity partners, she said.

“I think this is going to be a regular event here,” Bertero said.

— Kellie Schmitt

The Beauty of Double-Dipping

April 21, 2006

Attorney Morgan Smock lucked out five years ago: He not only survived a bad motorcycle accident, but also was awarded $108,000 in lost earnings even though his bosses kept him at full pay with bonuses.

The state of California didn’t like that, and appealed.

On Tuesday, Smock’s luck held up again when San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal sided with him, holding that the state’s collateral source rule excluded his employer’s payments from the jury’s consideration.

“However criticized, maligned or debatable the application of the collateral source rule may be in this case,” Justice Peter Siggins wrote, “it is not within our province to depart from established California law, and we decline to do so.”

Justices William McGuiness and Stuart Pollak concurred.

Tuesday’s ruling in Smock v. State of California, 06 C.D.O.S. 3199, stems from a September 2001 traffic accident in which Smock was badly injured when a car changing lanes at the western approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collided with his motorcycle.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

April 21, 2006

Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo got a nice plug Friday when he and Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced a joint-agency $1.5 million settlement requiring PepsiCo Inc. to stop using leaded labels on bottled soft drinks imported from Mexico. Too bad the rest of the news last week wasn’t so pleasant for the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

A Field Poll released Thursday put Delgadillo 41 points behind opponent Jerry Brown, a stunning deficit given Delgadillo’s strong fund-raising and constant attacks on Brown’s record as Oakland mayor. Two out of three voters had no opinion of Delgadillo, a bad sign with the June primary less than seven weeks away.

A statement issued by Delgadillo’s campaign said the candidate will continue to campaign “no matter what the odds.” In the coming days, Delgadillo will speak at seven Democratic club events in Southern California, where he does better in the polls against Brown. But he’ll have to return to Sacramento next weekend for the state Democratic Party convention, where he’ll likely be asked to unplug his campaign so Brown can focus on the probable Republican nominee, state Sen. Chuck Poochigian of Fresno.

— Cheryl Miller

That’s Right, Snub the Media (and the Public)

April 21, 2006

A key state lawmaker is blocking the courts’ request for more computer techies, but you won’t hear about the ensuing debate, at least not publicly.

At a budget mark-up hearing this week, Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, told Administrative Office of the Courts officials that they hadn’t made their case for 17 new information technology jobs to support the AOC, the Supreme Court and the appellate courts. The division already has 137 positions, he noted, and “there’s a feeling that there needs to be greater clarity” if managers want more.

Ironically, Bermudez then called for a future closed-door “stakeholders” meeting “where we’re not going to be in a public hearing on tape.” Those on the invited list: budget subcommittee staff, the AOC and, presumably, the largest court workers’ unions. Those snubbed: the media and the general public.

The new jobs would cost $3.3 million, a pittance compared to the billions that comprise the overall state budget. But the hang-up points to some legislative leaders’ resistance to scaling back oversight of the courts. And it suggests the coming debates over bigger budget items will be more heated. Just don’t expect to see them take place in public.

— Cheryl Miller

Trolling for Dollars (Oaktown Style)

April 20, 2006

For a guy mounting an anti-war primary campaign against U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., a Bay Area stop is a fundraising must. So businessman Ned Lamont swept through town yesterday, attending one event at Rubicon in San Francisco before hustling across the bridge for another at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland.

Under a bank of yellow stage lights, he treated more than 25 political watchers at the Uptown to his standard stump speech, lambasting Lieberman for questioning the patriotism of those who oppose the war in Iraq. Lamont is considered a long shot to replace the well-funded incumbent, but his campaign has proved more vigorous than anticipated. Lieberman recently declared he will run as an independent if he loses the primary, which made observers take Lamont even more seriously.

Among the gushing spectators was lawyer Spencer Weisbroth, now the business affairs director for Grammy-award winning Kronos Quartet. “It’s very refreshing to hear a Democrat talk like a Democrat,” Weisbroth said. Lamont heads to Los Angeles today in what campaign manager Tom Swan calls a “seed planting” swing. The campaign hopes to raise at least $250,000 in California.

Dan Levine

Gay Group Goes Full-Court Press on Penn State

April 20, 2006

Penn State blinked, but attorneys at the National Center for Lesbian Rights want more.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco group announced that an internal investigation by Nittany Lion officials had concluded that Lady Lions’ basketball coach Rene Portland had created a “hostile, intimidating and offensive environment” for a former player she believed was gay.

But rather than fire Portland, the group noted, Penn State fined her $10,000, issued a written reprimand and warned the long-time coach to stop discriminating. That upset NCLR attorneys, who have filed a suit against Penn State and Portland, which they claim has a long history of mistreating basketball players who are — or are suspected to be — lesbian.

“We are deeply disappointed that Penn State has chosen such a minor rebuke to address such a systemic, quarter-century-long problem,” said NCLR senior counsel Karen Doering.

NCLR went after Portland on behalf of Jennifer Harris, a former Lady Lion guard who fled Penn State rather than endure what she considered harassment and threats by Portland. Harris, who says she is heterosexual, transferred to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she will play basketball next season.

In a statement, Harris said she was disappointed that Penn State “did not take the allegations seriously.”

NCLR attorneys said they will proceed with a court-ordered mediation set for mid-May.

“Given the damage done by Penn State and the personal sacrifice of Jennifer Harris,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said, “the consequences faced by Rene Portland are insulting and inadequate.”

Mike McKee