President Bush has nominated Milan D. Smith Jr., a Torrance-based transactions attorney, for a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The 53-year-old Smith has spent the bulk of his career in the private practice he founded, Smith Crane Robinson & Parker.


Relations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress are frosty right now, but the moderate Smith is expected to easily win confirmation. An odd Congressional couple suggested his appointment: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a well-known liberal, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, the powerful Republican from Utah.


Boxer became a friend of Smith through his brother, U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. Hatch, like the Smiths, is a Mormon, and he has known the Torrance attorney's family for four decades.


In fact, Smith comes from a political family. His grandfather was chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; his cousin Rex Lee, was solicitor general during the Reagan Administration, and his father, also Milan Smith, was assistant secretary of agriculture under President Eisenhower.


Smith, married with seven children, is best known for a public altercation with Donald Trump. The Donald owns the Ocean Trails Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes, but the course sits on land owned by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, one of Smith's clients. When the school board decided to raise his rent in 2003, Trump sued. Smith took Trump to task on a local TV broadcast that received national play.


Smith is Bush's eighth nomination to the Ninth Circuit court. Four nominees have been confirmed. The seat for which Smith is nominated has been vacant since June 2004. The court hears appeals of cases decided by federal trial courts or state courts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.


Going Up
The pot keeps growing for first year associates.


In the wake of salary levels hitting $135,000 in Los Angeles, several firms are raising first-year associate pay in their New York and San Francisco offices to $145,000, an increase of $20,000 in some cases. Some insiders suggest these salary increases will be offset by smaller or discontinued bonuses. But the continued increases of associates' salary levels indicate increased intensity of competition for top-notch talent.


Stock Answer
The West Coast SEC enforcement and white-collar defense unit of Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom LLP has won an insider trading case with boardroom ramifications.


Fidelity National Financial Inc. director Tom Talbot learned in a board meeting that Learning Tree International Inc., one of the stocks in the company's portfolio, was facing a takeover. Based on that knowledge, Talbot purchased 10,000 shares of Learning Tree stock, which he sold two weeks later when the information was made public, earning $67,000.


A Los Angeles District court judge ruled that this was not a case of insider trading because Learning Tree had elected to communicate the information and did not request a confidentiality agreement.


Howdy, Partner
Wenton Benshoof Rochefort Rubalcava MacCuish LLP has elevated Thomas Cohen (land development), Deborah Yoon (business litigation), Scott Leipzig (business litigation) and James Sloan (business and technology) to partner status. DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP had made partners of William P. Donovan (litigation) and Timothy B. Evans (real estate) in L.A. Davis Wright Tremaine LLP has bestowed partner status on Jennifer L. Brockett (commercial and intellectual property litigation). Jones Day Reavis & Pogue LLP has made partners of two veteran attorneys who are rejoining the firm. Deborah Saxe will specialize in labor and employment while Louis Touton will work in property litigation. Strategic Counsel has picked Gregory G. Gorman and Johnny Darnell to head its new litigation practice, which will focus on cases involving the convergence of business issues, politics and public perceptions.


*Staff reporter Emily Bryson York can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235, or at eyork@labusinessjournal.com .

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