Wealth managers Stu Tobisman and Leah Bishop, partners at the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers LLP for a combined 60 years, are leaving to head up the estate planning department at Loeb & Loeb LLP at the end of the month.

"A number of our partners have known them for quite some time and they have an impeccable reputation in the community," said John T. Frankenheimer, Los Angeles chair of Loeb & Loeb.

The parties were in talks for several months. The duo works for high net worth individuals those with substantially more than $20 million in personal holdings and closely held corporations.

Tobisman said the team had long talks with O'Melveny about ways to stay with the firm, but ultimately it became clear to both sides that it wouldn't work. He describes the split as extremely amicable.

"We felt that to provide the continuity and consistency we need for our clients, we needed to be at a firm that had a significant commitment to the private client practice," Bishop said. "Although O'Melvney is a great firm, and I had significant misgivings about leaving, it's not a priority area for O'Melveny."

The partners plan to move their entire team to Loeb & Loeb, including associates Linda N. Deitch, Laura B. Berger, Deborah J. Korney, Alyse N. Pelavin and Tarin Gary Bross along with four paralegals, an administrative assistant and up to six secretaries. The addition of Tobisman's and Bishop's team will bring to 22 the number of attorneys in Loeb & Loeb's tax and wealth services practice in Los Angeles, a 47 percent increase.

The shift likely means the end of the estate planning practice at O'Melveny, which at 120 years old, is the city's oldest law firm and among its largest with more than 1,000 attorneys. Partner Dan Petrocelli has kept O'Melveny in the headlines recently, representing former Enron executive Jeff Skilling in his trial for alleged fraud and insider trading.

Loeb & Loeb is nearly as old as O'Melveny, but much smaller, with a total of about 200 attorneys.

You Be The Judge
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is making judicial appointments faster than his "Terminator" sequels.

He made his third L.A.-area appointment in the past month when he tapped Richard S. Kemalyan, 55, of Glendale, to Los Angeles County Superior Court. Kemalyan has been a partner with Dwyer Daly, Brotzen & Bruno LLP since 2000 and ran his own firm, Kemalyan & Richland, for the four years prior. His practice has focused on defensive police misconduct, civil right violations, anti-counterfeit and trademark enforcement work.

"I'm extremely honored," Kemalyan said. "I really enjoyed my practice as a lawyer and I particularly enjoy trying cases, but this offers an opportunity to enter a new phase of my legal career and I look forward to it."

He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Michael Farrell. Kemalyan, a Republican, will receive an annual salary of $149,160 if confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Gov. Schwarzenegger also appointed Judge Nora M. Manella to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Four (Los Angeles).

Manella, 55, of Studio City, has been a judge for the Central District of California since 1998. Her career has included stops as U. S. Attorney for the Central District of California and seats on the bench of Los Angeles Superior Court and the Los Angeles County Municipal Court. She also worked four years as an associate at O'Melveny & Myers LLP.

"I'm certainly pleased," Manella said. "This is my fourth judicial appointment and I'm looking forward to doing appellate work, which has been my first love."

Manella said that in her new job she expected to focus more on deciding cases and writing opinions rather than day-to-day case management. She has been on the bench for 12 years.

Manella will fill the vacancy created by Judge Gary Hastings' retirement. She is a Democrat and her compensation will be $170,694.

Injury Award
Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP has scored another victory in a major liability case, though it could be seen as a split decision.

The firm, led by founding partner Browne Greene, achieved a favorable verdict against the City of Santa Monica in the case of an 81-year-old man who was injured while trying to board one of the city's Big Blue buses.

The jury ordered the city, which is known for being difficult to best in liability cases, to pay $2.7 million to Haroun Mehdipour earlier this month. He lost his left arm and sustained a brain injury when he was struck by one of the buses. Mehdipour was judged to be 25 percent at fault, which resulted in the relatively low award.

The plaintiffs asked the jury for a total award of $11.5 million.

"If the jury was going to find against the city it's about as a low a verdict as I could have expected," said Lance Gams, counsel for the city of Santa Monica. "From that perspective, I'm not disappointed. I'm somewhat gratified that they acknowledge in their finding of comparative negligence that the plaintiff was in part at fault for this accident."

Co-counsels for the plaintiffs were Shawn Azizzadeh and Michael Ross of Azizzadeh & Ross PLC.

Beyond Nine-to-Five
Newport Beach-based Castle Peterson & Krause LLP last week won a $38 million settlement on behalf of approximately 50,000 individuals in a wage-and-hour class action against San Ramon-based 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc.

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

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