Hollywood Firm Dreier Trying to Sever Ties
Headline Legal News | 2009/01/07 17:07
A top Hollywood law firm is quietly but doggedly trying to sever ties with its New York owner in the wake of his arrest on financial fraud charges.

Santa Monica-based Dreier Stein, the 40-attorney outpost of Dreier Llp. and home to well-known entertainment litigator Stanton "Larry" Stein, spent the holidays in expedited meetings with potential new merger partners on both coasts.

The goal, Stein said, is to split from firm principal and accused swindler Marc Dreier before the end of January.

"We're listening to offers," said Stein, who reps such industry clients as Lionsgate, Jennifer Love Hewitt and David Duchovny. "We've done nothing wrong, and we need to get out from under the burden of Dreier."

Dreier, who opened the West Coast outpost of his 250-lawyer firm in January 2007 via a pricey deal with Stein's entertainment litigation and corporate boutique, has been held in a Manhattan jail since early December on charges of bilking some of New York's top investors to the tune of $380 million.

Among other colorful and bizarre tactics, Dreier is accused of impersonating lawyers and hawking fake promissory notes to hedge funds.

The arrest has plunged the once high-flying Dreier firm into bankruptcy and put some of Hollywood's most prolific lawyers in play.

Stein's group of 20 talent-side litigators, which includes Michael Plonsker, Yakub Hazzard and Mark Passin, has handled recent cases for Marvel Entertainment and Eva Longoria and repped Rob Lowe in his battle against a former nanny.

In December, the firm, whose full name is Dreier Stein Kahan Browne Woods George, went to trial against AMPAS on behalf of the estate of Mary Pickford over the effort by Pickford's heirs to auction off her Oscar for 1929's "Coquette."

Stein said he and his partners are cooperating with the court-ordered receiver that is collecting the firm's income and approving its expenses while he scrambles to find another home. He would not confirm the names of suitors, but top contenders include Los Angeles' Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif, which itself boasts a strong entertainment practice, as well as New York-based Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, Washington-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and international firms Troutman Sanders and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.


Holocaust Survivors' Class Action Dismissed
Headline Legal News | 2009/01/05 17:01
A federal judge dismissed Holocaust survivors' class-action claim that the Republic of France and its railroad company stole thousands of Jews' property as they were being deported to Nazi-run concentration camps. "(T)he court concludes that the bounds of its jurisdiction are not coterminous with the moral force of Plaintiffs' claims,' U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan wrote.      Judge Sullivan ruled: "(T)he Court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiffs' claims under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ... and that, even if jurisdiction were proper, the case presents serious justiciability issues that make abstention appropriate. Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted."
    Suing for the class of Holocaust deportees and their heirs, Lead plaintiff Mathilde Freund sued The Republic of France, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, and the Caisses des Dépôts et Consignations.
    Plaintiffs' lead counsel was Harriet Tamen. France's lead counsel was Jeremy Goldman Epstein with Shearman & Sterling.


Relatives mourn family slain in Santa shootings
Headline Legal News | 2008/12/29 17:24
Joseph and Alicia Ortega came from Mexico and raised a large, loving family supported by the metal painting business they started in Southern California.

The remaining members of that family now are in mourning, after a Christmas Eve attack on the Ortegas' home by the vengeful ex-husband of one of their daughters, Sylvia Pardo.

Bruce Pardo donned a Santa Claus suit and killed nine members of the Ortega family during the Christmas party where the close-knit family gathered each year, before spraying the home with racing fuel that set it on fire. Pardo later killed himself.

"They really were a great family," said Jose Castillo, Sylvia Pardo's brother-in-law from an earlier marriage, who came to pay his respects Sunday at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac where the Ortegas' two-story home once stood. "They used to be together all the time."

Joseph Ortega, 80, and Alicia, 70, had retired about 10 years ago from their business painting metal furniture and other items in nearby El Monte.

The couple immigrated to the United States shortly after their marriage 53 years ago in the Mexican city of Torreon, that city's newspaper, El Siglo de Torreon, reported Saturday.

The family is well-known in the city, where Alicia's sisters are prominent businesswomen, the newspaper's editorial director Javier Garza told the Los Angeles Times.

Sylvia Pardo, 43, had been living at her parents' home since her divorce from Bruce Pardo, a 45-year-old electrical engineer, about a year ago, Castillo said.

Her earlier marriage to Jose Castillo's brother, Sabino Castillo, ended with Sabino's death in a traffic accident about 20 years ago, when she was pregnant with their youngest of two children.

Both children, a 21-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son, had escaped unharmed from the party where Bruce Pardo opened fire.



Internet gambling tycoon gives up $300M in plea
Headline Legal News | 2008/12/17 18:19
A co-founder of an Internet gambling company and one of the world's richest people pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating the federal wire act and agreed to forfeit $300 million as part of a cooperation deal.

A smiling Anurag Dikshit, of the British colony of Gibraltar, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to charges that he used the Internet to transmit interstate and foreign wagering information. The charge carries a potential prison term of up to two years.

The 37-year-old citizen of India is the co-founder of PartyGaming, a Gibraltar online gambling company that offered casino and poker games and catered to a U.S. audience.

Dikshit signed a cooperation agreement and prosecutors indicated they may eventually submit a letter to the judge asking for leniency.

Dikshit and defense lawyer Mark Pomerantz declined to comment.

Prosecutors said in a release that Dikshit developed a proprietary software platform and directed the company's computer operations from 1998 through October 2006, when he also was PartyGaming's principal shareholder.

Bail was set at $15 million, but Dikshit was not required to post any cash or property, prompting Judge Jed S. Rakoff to ask what incentive Dikshit had to attend future court dates.

But prosecutors and Pomerantz agreed that Dikshit had demonstrated his desire to cooperate, in part by already paying $100 million to the U.S. Treasury and pledging to pay another $100 million within three months and the last $100 million installment by Sept. 30.

"Mr. Dikshit decided to come to the United States to enter the plea under his own volition. He's been interviewed in Europe. We believe Mr. Dikshit is dedicated to following through," Pomerantz said.

Forbes magazine estimated Dikshit's worth last year at $1.6 billion, making him the 618th richest person in the world.



Ill. gov. says ready to tell his side of scandal
Headline Legal News | 2008/12/16 18:25
Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Wednesday he is ready to tell his side of the scandal to the people of Illinois and that he would do so no later than Thursday.

"I can't wait to begin to tell my side of the story and to address you guys and, most importantly, the people of Illinois. That's who I'm dying to talk to," he said as he left his home Wednesday morning for a jog.

"There's a time and place for everything. That day will soon be here and you might know more about that today, maybe no later than tomorrow."

On Tuesday, an impeachment inquiry against Blagojevich hit a speed bump shortly after getting under way, with state lawmakers seeking guidance from federal prosecutors and postponing any real action until the governor's attorney arrives.

The attorney, Ed Genson, planned to attend Wednesday's meeting of a special Illinois House committee reviewing potential impeachment and may provide the first hint of the embattled Democratic governor's strategy.

The committee's chairwoman, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, said Wednesday's meeting would focus on a review of the criminal case against Blagojevich and no witnesses would be called.



Oklahoma files appeal in poultry litter case
Headline Legal News | 2008/12/14 18:22
Oklahoma is again hoping to stop 13 Arkansas-based poultry companies from disposing of bird waste in the Illinois River watershed.

The state's 61-page appeal of an earlier judge's ruling was filed late Monday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Oklahoma had tried to get an injunction to halt a practice thousands of farmers have employed for decades in the 1 million-acre watershed, which occupies parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma: Taking the ammonia-reeking chicken waste — clumped bird droppings, bedding and feathers — and spreading it on their land as a low-cost fertilizer.

The injunction also could have led to similar environmental lawsuits nationwide against the industry, which produced more than 48 billion pounds of chicken in 2006.

But in September, U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell ruled that Oklahoma "has not yet met its burden of proving that bacteria in the waters" are "caused by the application of poultry litter rather than by other sources, including cattle manure and human septic systems."

Charlie Price, spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmondson, said that ruling "contained several troubling, and we believe inaccurate, legal interpretations that we feel compelled to present to the higher court."



Ill. corruption figure Rezko sentencing set Jan. 6
Headline Legal News | 2008/12/02 23:06
A federal judge in Chicago has set a Jan. 6 sentencing for political fundraiser Tony Rezko, who helped bankroll the campaigns of Barack Obama and Gov. Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY'-uh-vich).

Defense attorney Joseph Duffy says Rezko just "wants to get on with his life." Duffy made his comments while leaving court Tuesday after Judge Amy St. Eve set the date.

Duffy, however, left open the question of whether Rezko is still cooperating with the government's investigation of corruption in the Blagojevich (blah-GOY'-uh-vich) administration.

Rezko, convicted in June of mail fraud and other counts, wasn't in court Tuesday. He had asked for an early sentencing date.

Rezko was a major fundraiser for Obama in his campaigns in Illinois but did not raise money in his presidential campaign.



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