Law Firms Combine, Offer Affordable Rates

Legal Marketing 2008/03/01 12:21   Bookmark and Share

The San Diego law firm of Steigerwalt & Associates merged Wednesday with the Pacific Law Center, creating a new entity specializing in personal injury, bankruptcy and criminal defense litigation.

The new firm -- called Kerry Steigerwalt's Pacific Law Center -- will have 30 attorneys working out of offices in downtown San Diego, La Jolla, Escondido and Chula Vista, Steigerwalt said.

He said the company will provide effective and affordable representation for the average person who becomes involved in litigation, offering the services of experienced lawyers who have handled thousands of matters ranging from death penalty cases to traffic offenses.

Steigerwalt stressed KSPLC's commitment to offering experienced and effective legal services at affordable rates, including free initial consultations.

"The very rich can afford whatever lawyers they choose," Steigerwalt said. "The poor are provided lawyers at public expense. The big gap in legal representation involves the average citizen who becomes involved with litigation and doesn't know where to turn. We're here to provide them that same access to justice."

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Law Firm Warns Of Looming Katrina Lawsuit Deadline

Legal Business 2008/02/28 14:05   Bookmark and Share
That's significant not only in it being leap year, but it's also exactly six months until the deadline for anyone with a Katrina insurance dispute to file a lawsuit against insurance companies. Now one law firm is launching a campaign telling people who haven't decided whether to take their claim to court, not to wait until it's too late.

The Merlin Law Group has already fought for hundreds of people unhappy with how their insurance companies handled their Katrina claims. Attorney Chip Merlin says he worries about the thousands who have yet to join the battle.

"There's a whole bunch of people who've filed claims and they've been paid," said Merlin. "Sometimes they've been paid a little bit, sometimes they've been paid a lot. But they're still owed some more. Insurance companies bank on people just giving up."

Beginning February 29th, the Merlin Law Group will start running print and television ads letting people know the clock it ticking down.

"The deadline effectively stops people's ability to collect from the insurance company," Merlin said. "You have to have a lawsuit filed by that time. It doesn't mean the lawsuit is over with. It just means you have to have it filed."

Merlin says he's not concerned about where people who lost their homes and businesses go to find legal representation, just that they go and quickly.

"I don't think it's right for insurance companies to cheat people and not pay the full amount that's owed," said Merlin. "I've devoted my adult life to this and I believe that, regardless if they go to my law firm or any other law firm anywhere, it would be really wrong in our society if we allowed insurance companies to cheat people. They shouldn't just let the claim go away because they don't think it's worth the hassle."

Attorney Chip Merlin says many attorneys don't charge to review the merits of a claim, and will work on contingency. He says as the deadline for Katrina suits loomed in Louisiana last year, people were lined up outside the courthouse.

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U.S. court orders Black to prison on Monday

Headline Legal News 2008/02/28 13:47   Bookmark and Share

Media mogul Conrad Black has lost his bid to be freed on bond and will have to report to a Florida prison on Monday.

A U.S. federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday ruled that Black must go to jail while his appeal of his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions moves through the court system.

The Montreal-born Black was convicted July 13 of obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of his former newspaper company, Hollinger International Inc. He was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and ordered to start serving his time on March 3.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday did, however, agree to free Black's two co-defendants on bond while they appeal their own fraud sentences.

Former Hollinger executive John Boultbee was sentenced to 27 months in jail while his colleague Peter Atkinson received a 24-month jail sentence.

In explaining the decision not to free Black, the three appeal court judges who ruled on Black's case noted that he was convicted of one offence that the other Hollinger executives were not — the obstruction of justice.

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eBay Settles Patent Dispute With MercExchange

Topics in Legal News 2008/02/28 11:17   Bookmark and Share

eBay has agreed to settle a patent dispute with MercExchange. The online auction company told investors Thursday it would buy MercExchange's patents and MercExchange would dismiss all claims and appeals regarding a lawsuit it filed seven years ago.

"We're pleased to have been able to reach a settlement with MercExchange," Mike Jacobson, eBay senior VP and general counsel, said in a prepared statement. "In addition to resolving the litigation, this settlement gives us access to additional intellectual property that will help improve and further secure our marketplaces."

MercExchange claimed credit for eBay's fixed price auction options through eBay's "Buy It Now" feature, saying the online auction infringed on three of its patents. According to records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, MercExchange filed for the patents in 1995, 1999, and 2001.

eBay tried to fight a judgment that would have cost the company about $30 million. The case went up and back down the U.S. court system. In December of 2007, a U.S. District Court ruling concluded in December that the court lacked authority to consider eBay's motion for summary judgment.

eBay claimed then that it did not infringe on MercExchange's '265 patents and that it owed no damages.

eBay said it will buy three patents, related technology and inventions, as well as a license to a search patent portfolio that is separate from the lawsuit.

The companies did not disclose other settlement terms, which eBay said are confidential. eBay said the settlement should not affect its 2007 results or 2008 financial guidance from January's fourth quarter earnings release.

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Court Denies Altria Motions To Dimiss Claims

Topics in Legal News 2008/02/27 13:57   Bookmark and Share

The law firm of Broach & Stulberg LLP said the U.S. District Court denied Altria Group Inc.'s (MO) motions to dismiss an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a former Swiss-based employee against Altria and Philip Morris International Inc.

The motions sought to dismiss the claims on the ground that the U.S. court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff, D'Arcy Quinn, was employed by a "foreign" employer not subject to the U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled that Altria "failed to raise a meritorious issue as to lack of subject matter jurisdiction."

The suit alleges that firing, hirings and promotions within Philip Morris illegally considered ages of candidates and employees.

The suit was filed in October in the U.S. District Court for the Southern district of New York on behalf Quinn, a former Philip Morris brand integrity director who served as in-house counsel for international anti-counterfeiting and anti-smuggling matters.

An Altria spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment.

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US appeals court rejects California ship emission rules

Headline Legal News 2008/02/27 11:24   Bookmark and Share
California must obtain approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before enforcing new rules to require ships to burn cleaner diesel fuel as they enter and dock at the state's ports, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

The California Air Resources Board had sought to implement stricter air pollution controls within 24 miles of the state's coastline. The rules would require ships to use fuel in their auxiliary engines that emits lower levels of sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal reinstated a lower court's injunction barring the state from enforcing its Marine Vessel Rules, finding that the Clean Air Act preempts them.

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