Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney has found a high tech solution to the classic conundrum of balancing the public's right to know with a client's right to a fair trial.

Merck & Co. Inc. wanted cameras kept out of the courtroom during two cases here involving its anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx. The first, which began on June 15, involves 73-year-old Rudolph Arrigale, who had a heart attack after taking Vioxx. The second was filed by Stewart Grossberg, who was 66 when he suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx.

The two Los Angeles suits are among 1,800 cases in California filed against Merck since September 2004, when the company withdrew the anti-inflammatory drug from the market. Attorneys on both sides each got to select a case for trial.

With the help of lawyers Gary Bostwick and Jean-Paul Jassy from Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, Court TV has won access to record footage at both Los Angeles trials, the first of which started last week. It won't be broadcast on the cable channel, however.

The judge ruled that Court TV Professional, a division of Court TV, could transmit the proceedings over the Internet on a password-protected, subscription-based system.

Merck opposed camera access in a 40-page filing, arguing that the publicity would prejudice the trial and that Court TV was only trying to "make a buck." The plaintiffs took a neutral stance.

"The fact that this is a camera that is going to broadcast to a limited audience watching via Web and passwords is something completely new in California," Bostwick said. "And it was impressive to the judge that this was not something that was going to be beamed out to people as entertainment."

A Texas jury in April found the drug maker Merck liable in the death of a former Vioxx patient. The firm is appealing the ruling, which held Merck responsible for $32 million in damages. Merck officials did not return calls for comment. Court TV's parent is Turner Broadcasting System Inc.

Software Ruling

Morrison & Foerster LLP lawyers in Los Angeles are celebrating a recent Appellate decision against Microsoft. Their client's software patent was allowed to stand and the computer giant held liable for up to $65 million in licensing fees.

Armando Amado developed and patented a software application linking spreadsheets and databases. The Ninth District ruled that Microsoft infringed on his patent through the sale of its Office Pro software.

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