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US court rules for Medtronic, bars some state suits
Law Firm News | 2008/02/20 21:46

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to Medtronic Inc on Wednesday, ruling that patients cannot sue medical-device manufacturers in state court over harm from a device that has approval from federal regulators.

By an 8-1 vote, the court ruled a 1976 law creating federal safety oversight for medical devices bars state-law claims challenging safety or effectiveness of devices that have won premarket approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The decision was the Supreme Court's first ruling on the legal effect of the FDA's approval of a medical device on liability lawsuits, Medtronic said.

The ruling could benefit other device makers, who have argued that the FDA's judgment that a product is safe and effective should protect companies from being sued for liability in state court.

The Medtronic case involved a New York man who was injured in 1996 when a doctor inflated a balloon catheter during an artery-clearing procedure.

Medtronic has said the doctor in the case used the catheter contrary to labeling instructions and in a patient for whom it was not recommended. The company no longer makes that specific catheter.

A federal trial court in Albany, New York, dismissed the lawsuit, finding the patient was not entitled to state law remedies because of the FDA's prior approval of the device.

A U.S. appeals court agreed that the lawsuit was pre-empted by federal law, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision.



Top US court rejects spying case
Law Firm News | 2008/02/19 21:48

The US Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge to a domestic anti-terrorism eavesdropping programme.
President George W Bush authorised the monitoring, without a court order, of international phone calls and e-mails of US citizens after the 9/11 attacks.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that Mr Bush did not have the constitutional authority to order the programme, which ended last year.

The Supreme Court gave no explanation for its ruling.

Legality questioned

The domestic spying programme was denounced by Democrats and rights activists when it was disclosed in 2005.

A group of civil liberties activists, journalists, academics and lawyers challenged the spying programme in the courts, arguing it violated a 1978 rule prohibiting surveillance of American citizens on US soil without a warrant.

In July last year, an appeals court struck down a lower court's ruling that found the programme to be unconstitutional.

The appeals court, based in Cincinnati, dismissed the case because the plaintiffs had failed to show that their communications had been monitored.

But the Cincinnati judges did not rule on the legality or otherwise of the programme.

The president rejected claims that he broke the law by ordering surveillance without first securing warrants. He argued the eavesdropping programme was necessary and was targeted against al-Qaeda.

The Bush administration has so far refused to release documents about the programme that might reveal who was under surveillance.




U.S. Appeals Court sets deadlines in Peel case
Court Issues | 2008/02/08 19:16
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago allowed Gary Peel's federal public defender to withdraw from his case.

The Seventh Circuit appointed Paul Camarena of Chicago to replace Stephen Williams of the East St. Louis federal public defender's office on Jan. 25, after Williams filed a motion to withdraw just before Christmas.

Before the appeals court would allow Williams to withdraw, it ordered him to gather all of the transcripts of Peel's trial from Stiehl's court reporter Daveanna Ramsey.

Peel filed his notice of appeal of his final judgment and sentence to the Seventh Circuit on Dec. 4.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl on Nov. 19. He was technically sentenced to 37 years, but Stiehl ordered the time to be served concurrently.

Peel, 63, was convicted on one count of obstruction of justice, one count bankruptcy fraud and two counts of child pornography by a federal jury in East St. Louis on March 23. He was also fined $1,000 and placed on three years supervised release.

Peel was prosecuted for blackmailing his ex-wife Deborah Peel with nude photos taken of her 16-year-old sister in 1974.

He and Deborah Peel were married in 1967 and divorced in 2003. During contentious settlement proceedings Gary Peel filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

At trial, prosecutors told jurors that Peel threatened to bankrupt his ex-wife in legal fees if she did not stop trying to get a deposition of his current wife, Deborah A. Pontious-Peel.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke told the jury that Peel planned to send the nude photos to Deborah Peel's parents if she did not agree to a new divorce settlement.

The Seventh Circuit also set the deadlines for the appeal to be filed.

Peel has to file his written brief and short appendix by April 23. The government has until May 23 to file its brief. If Peel wants to reply to the government's brief, he must submit it no later than June 6.

Peel originally had until Jan. 15 to file his brief, but was allowed more time since Williams withdrew from the case.


Helped law firm go global
Blog News | 2008/02/05 22:11

Thomas A. Reynolds Jr. led Winston & Strawn on a path of global expansion and brought in politically powerful partners, including former Gov. James Thompson and former U.S. Atty. Dan Webb.

He was also part of the ownership group that moved the Milwaukee Braves to Atlanta in the mid-1960s and chairman of the authority that built the stadium where the Chicago White Sox play.

Mr. Reynolds, 79, died of complications of Parkinson's disease Thursday, Feb. 14, in his Winnetka home, son Thomas A. Reynolds III said.

The second of three generations to practice law at Winston, Mr. Reynolds was the firm's managing director from 1969 to 1989 and then chairman until his retirement in 1992.

During his years at the helm, Winston expanded from 70 lawyers in Chicago to about 400 lawyers in five countries.

"He built this law firm, it's fair to say," said Thompson, who succeeded Mr. Reynolds as Winston's chairman. "He put it on the map."

A year after Mr. Reynolds took over, the firm opened an office in Washington, D.C. In 1980, Mr. Reynolds oversaw a merger that established a New York office.

"His belief was that the firm that decided to stay regional would not be able to compete," said his son, a partner at Winston.

Mr. Reynolds hired a string of legal and political heavyweights who attracted big-spending clients. Shortly after Thompson left the U.S. attorney's office in 1975, Mr. Reynolds signed him to Winston. Throughout Thompson's tenure as governor, Mr. Reynolds chaired his finance committee.

Thompson said he considered 10 law firms after leaving the governor's office in 1991 and was swayed by Mr. Reynolds and his promise that Thompson could take over as Winston & Strawn's chairman upon Mr. Reynolds' retirement.

"He was able to inspire other people, and he had a great head for business," Thompson said.

Mr. Reynolds also was instrumental in the hiring of former vice president Walter Mondale, former Illinois Commerce Commission chairman Michael Hasten and Webb, the former U.S. Attorney for the Chicago region.

In the late 1980s, Thompson appointed Mr. Reynolds to lead the Illinois Sports Finance Authority, which oversaw the construction of a new White Sox ballpark, now U.S. Cellular Field. Today, Thompson heads the authority.

A lifelong fan of baseball, Mr. Reynolds was part of a syndicate of Chicago businessmen led by William Bartholomay that bought the Milwaukee Braves for $5.5 million in 1962.

"Frankly, they did it because the Cubs weren't for sale," Mr. Reynolds' son said, noting his father's lifelong fealty to the North Side team. "For dad, it was the love of baseball."

A year after buying the Braves, the ownership group began negotiations that led to the team's move to Atlanta in 1966, sparking legal disputes and the long-standing ire of fans in Milwaukee. The group sold the team to Ted Turner in the mid-1970s.

Mr. Reynolds' father joined Winston & Strawn in 1927, following his graduation from Georgetown University Law School.

Mr. Reynolds grew up in Edgewater and attended Loyola Academy and Georgetown, where he was a top tennis player before being sidelined by injury. He graduated from University of Michigan's law school and married the former Suzanne FitzSimons in 1951.

Mr. Reynolds sat on a number of boards, including those of Gannett and Smurfit-Stone.

He was a supporter of The Big Shoulders Fund, which provides educational opportunities to impoverished inner-city students, from its inception in 1986.

A convivial executive, Mr. Reynolds often held court after a long day's work in the bar of the Mid-Day Club in what is now the Chase Tower.

"He used to say, 'You might as well have fun in this life because if you don't, no one's going to want to be with you in the first place,' " his son said.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Reynolds also is survived by sons Sherman, Timothy and Stephen; daughters Kathy Lanctot, Suzy Hick and Ellen Largay; sisters Sheila Berner, Susan Sullivan and Mary Ellen; 37 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Two daughters, Julie Shaw and Clare Joyce, preceded him in death.

Mass will be said at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Sts. Faith, Hope & Charity, 191 Linden St., Winnetka.



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