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May 22, 2009 10:00 AM

Litigator of the Week: Mark Robinson, Jr., of Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson

Posted by Andrew Longstreth

If you're a litigator who does a lot of consumer defense work in California, you might think about writing a thank-you note to Mark Robinson, Jr., senior partner at Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson. On Monday he won a ruling from the California Supreme Court that will likely ensure you stay busy for the foreseeable future.

In a 4-to-3 decision (available here), the court held that, notwithstanding Proposition 64--which is designed to curb frivolous consumer lawsuits--it would allow to move forward a class action against tobacco companies alleging they misled California smokers through deceptive advertising. The suit seeks to represent all Californians who saw the ads and purchased cigarettes between 1993 and 2001. The lower courts had dismissed the suit on the basis of Prop 64, which amended the state's unfair competition law by limiting standing to a "person who has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of [such] unfair competition."

The defendants, represented by Daniel Collins of Munger, Tolles & Olson, argued that class members who are not named representatives should have to meet those requirements. But the majority disagreed. Justice Carlos Moreno wrote that it would "effectively eliminate the class action lawsuit as a vehicle for the vindication of such rights." The court wrote that only class representatives need to meet Prop 64's standing requirements.

Publicly, defense lawyers decried the decision. "California is to litigation as the Cayman Islands are to banking, and I think we will see more and more of these suits brought in California, Arnold & Porter partner Trent Norris told the Los Angeles Times.

Our Litigator of the Week, who has been at the case since 1997, gave us a different view of the ruling Thursday. "I believe this was a huge victory for the consumers of California," he said.

And, we might add, for the paychecks of defense lawyers.

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