Molina Out, Latino Advocacy Group Looks East for New Leader

by Amanda Bronstad

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, has a new chairman after three years under the leadership of Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Joseph Stern, a partner in the New York office of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, will replace Molina as chairman of the L.A.-based nonprofit, which represents Latinos in civil litigation and political matters nationwide. Molina, who will remain on the board, had held three consecutive one-year terms as chairwoman.

Stern, who is not Hispanic, handles corporate deals for Fried Frank's Latin American clients.

He is in charge of supervising MALDEF's policies and direction as well as its staff, and will be in L.A. at least once a month, he said, attending committee and board meetings.

Stern said MALDEF's mission would be more difficult in a post-Sept. 11 world.

"There's an anti-immigration concern generally in our country that has implications for Latinos," he said.

Anti-Trust Moves

Jeffrey Modisett, a former Indiana attorney general, has left public policy-driven Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP to join the Los Angeles office of Bryan Cave LLP.

Modisett, who also served as general counsel and deputy chief executive of the 2000 Democratic National Convention Committee, will start building a public policy practice in the 60-attorney office of the St. Louis-based general practice firm. He will advise clients in anti-trust, consumer protection and other regulatory matters.

Modisett, who started as partner at Bryan Cave May 1, said he left Manatt after a year because of client needs.

"Manatt is essentially a California law firm with a (Washington) D.C. office," he said. "I wanted a law firm with offices throughout the country to better serve clients."

Modisett's clients include the Virginia-based National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, which has sued DirecTV Inc. over anti-competitive issues.

Sour Grapes

Picnic Time Inc., a Moorpark-based seller of picnic baskets and tablecloths often gracing Hollywood Bowl tables, has settled a dispute over the design of grape leaves on its napkins and tablecloths for $1 million.

Robert Kaufman Co. Inc., a Los Angeles textile designer, claimed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, that Picnic time infringed on several of its grape leaf designs.

"Frankly, I didn't know you could copyright a grape-leaf pattern," said Stanley Saltzman, attorney at Marlin & Saltzman PLC who represents Picnic Time. "They were surprised they weren't allowed to make them, and tey stopped selling them immediately."

The settlement follows U.S. District Judge David Carter's order a few months ago that Picnic Time stop selling five of the designs.

Picnic Time had purchased fabrics with similar designs from Robert Kaufman between 1994 and 1998, acoording to court papers.

Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 225, or at

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