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Legal Roundup

Two win Greene County judicial commission seats

SPRINGFIELD (MOLW) Attorneys Brent Green and Clif Smart won a run-off election Feb. 25 to fill out the seats on the commission that will nominate judges for Greene County Circuit Court.

Green, an attorney with Evans & Green and former Springfield Metropolitan Area Bar president, won with 322 votes, beating out attorney Rodney Loomer, who had 196 votes. Missouri State University general counsel Smart netted 262 votes, besting plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Garner by just six votes. Garner, an attorney with Strong-Garner-Bauer, has been a member of the commission that selects candidates for appeals and Supreme Court seats.

The terms are staggered, with Green’s ending Dec. 31, 2011, and Smart’s ending on the same date in 2013.

Members of the Missouri Bar who live in Greene County voted in the election, casting more than 520 ballots in each race.

The other members of the commission are Gary Lynch, chief justice of the Southern District Court of Appeals, and Springfield businesswomen Sara Hargis and Linda Fowler, who were appointed by then-Gov. Matt Blunt before he left office. 


High Court rejects limits on drug lawsuits

WASHINGTON (AP) The Supreme Court forcefully rejected calls Wednesday for limiting consumer lawsuits against drug makers, upholding a $6.7 million jury award to a musician who lost her arm to gangrene following an injection.

The decision is the second this term to reject business groups’ arguments that federal regulation effectively pre-empts consumer complaints under state law.

Diana Levine of Vermont once played the guitar and piano professionally. Her right arm was amputated after she was injected with Phenergan, an anti-nausea medicine made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, using a method that brings rapid relief, but with grievous risks if improperly administered.

In a 6-3 decision, the court turned away Wyeth’s claim that federal approval of Phenergan and its warning label should have shielded the company from lawsuits like Levine’s.


Businesses must renew their names

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) About 430,000 Missouri business will need to renew their names or lose the right to use their company monikers.
Missouri passed a law in 2004 that required firms to renew their names every five years and pay a $7 fee. The secretary of state’s office, which handles business registrations, said Monday that the first round of renewals has started and includes companies that filed paperwork as early as 1919.
Secretary of state spokeswoman Laura Egerdal said 560,000 companies have filed and about 430,000 will need to renew their names by Aug. 28. Other companies whose names were created after 2004 will have to renew five years after that date. Egerdal said letters will be sent reminding the first batch of firms that they need to renew.
If all the companies refile, the state would collect about $3 million through the name renewals. Of that, $2.2 million would go to a state technology trust fund and $860,000 would go to the state’s general revenue.
Egerdal said letters are going out to those companies that must meet the August deadline. She said that it has cost $419,000 for the state to upgrade its registration software to track renewals.


House panel considers early voting

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) Supporters of an early voting proposal say it would allow voters to cast their ballots more easily, but critics say that convenience could cost the state millions of dollars.

A House committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would allow for two weeks of early voting during federal elections, with a weeklong break before Election Day. Polls would be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and until noon on Saturdays.

Nationwide, an estimated one-third of voters cast early ballots for November’s election.

In a sense, Missouri already has early voting. Absentee ballots are available for six weeks before the election.

But to vote absentee, people must sign affidavits saying they cannot vote on Election Day because of a physical disability, religious belief or because they will be away from their voting jurisdiction. Employment as an election authority at a different polling place or incarceration are also valid excuses.


EEOC seeks comment on genetic anti-bias regs

WASHINGTON (Dolan Newswires) The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission opened a 60-day public comment period Wednesday on its proposed plan to implement the employment-related requirements of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008.

The law, enacted last year, prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against employees  based on genetic information, and imposes strict confidentiality  requirements. It also directs the EEOC to issue regulations implementing the employment requirements by May 21.

Violators of the law could face penalties of up to $300,000 per offense, as well as punitive damages, attorney fees and administrative remedies. The law is scheduled to go into effect in November.

Comments may be submitted by April 24 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal:


Probe faults Blunt’s e-mail policies

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) Investigators looking into the e-mail retention practices of former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt have concluded his office had “insufficient” public records policies.

Although raising concerns, the investigators decided not to refer the matter to prosecutors.

The report released Tuesday wraps up a one-and-a-half-year probe into Blunt’s office that began after a former legal counsel claimed he was fired for raising concerns about e-mail deletions in the office.

Blunt’s attorney insisted in a written response that the office did have appropriate document retention policies.