Williams & Connolly, Madoff, ConAgra: Business of Law

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin hired agent Jim Tanner of the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly LLP to represent him in basketball and marketing matters, two people familiar with the situation said.

As Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick reports, Roger Montgomery, Lin’s current agent, will work with Tanner on the former Harvard University player’s free agency.

Montgomery didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment. Tanner was traveling and couldn’t be reached.

Tanner’s clients include San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan, Miami Heat forward Shane Battier and Grant Hill of the Phoenix Suns, whose president of basketball operations, Lon Babby, was a Williams & Connolly attorney and player agent before joining the National Basketball Association team.

The move comes at an important time for Lin, whose emergence this season may lead to increased endorsements. The 23-year-old, the first Chinese- or Taiwanese-American to play in the NBA, is a restricted free agent.

Two NBA teams cut Lin before he signed with the Knicks on Dec. 27. He invigorated the team after joining the starting lineup on Feb. 6, fueling sales of merchandise and tickets, driving television ratings and helping the team’s parent company, Madison Square Garden Co., end a seven-week stalemate with Time Warner Cable Inc. that kept the provider’s

2.8 million subscribers in the New York area from seeing the Knicks.

Ticket prices to games at Madison Square Garden tripled as fans got caught up in “Linsanity,” a phrase coined to encompass the excitement surrounding the player.

New Suits

Madoff Class-Action Lawsuit Is Blocked by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge

A U.S. bankruptcy judge barred a class-action lawsuit filed in Florida against the estate of a former Bernard L. Madoff investor, Jeffry Picower.

The Madoff brokerage trustee, Irving Picard, settled a lawsuit against the Picower estate for $7.2 billion in 2010, after alleging Picower knew of and profited from Madoff’s fraud. Pamela Goldman and a related partnership asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland in Manhattan to let their suit go forward, even after similar actions had been barred by Lifland and other judges on appeal, the judge said June 20 in an order filed in court.

“This court has sole jurisdiction over the administration and distribution of estate assets to customers,” he said.

The judge’s ruling on the Florida class action may help Picard, who has been fighting to preserve his sole right to sue to recover money for the con man’s customers. Customers who have little prospect of being paid by Picard, and other parties, say he is interfering with their rights.

Joshua Angel, a lawyer for Goldman, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the ruling.

This month, Picard accused California Attorney General Kamala Harris of breaking the law by suing to recoup $270 million in illegal profits from Stanley Chais’s estate. Harris has said her suit isn’t barred under bankruptcy law, because she is exercising her policing power under state law.

Most of the $9 billion that Picard says he has raised from settlements is tied up in court challenges and unavailable for distribution to customers who lost money.

Madoff, 74, is serving 150 years in prison after pleading guilty to orchestrating the fraud that destroyed his New York-based firm, which collapsed in December 2008. Picard and his law firm, Baker & Hostetler LLP, have charged about $273 million for liquidating the estate, while returning just $330 million to customers.

The Lifland ruling is on the docket of the main case: Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, 08-ap-1789, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

ConAgra Hires Minneapolis Firm for Hebrew National Suit

A group of 11 consumers filed a lawsuit claiming that Hebrew National products are not, contrary to their label, kosher.

The consumers allege that ConAgra Foods Inc., which owns Hebrew National, purchases its meats from food-processing plants which “fail to adhere to the kosher standards.”

The suit, which seeks class-action status, doesn’t seek “to have the court create or define what the applicable standard for kosher meat is,” according to the complaint. Instead, the consumers seek to hold the company “to the standard established by its own representations to the public.”

The consumers also claim that purchasers paid premium prices for kosher foods when they allege the food wasn’t kosher.

ConAgra, based in Omaha, Nebraska, denied the claims.

“Hebrew National’s kosher status is certified by a well-recognized and authorized third-party,” the company said in a statement. “There is close rabbinical supervision of the food preparation process and packaging equipment.”

The group that certifies Hebrew National as kosher, Triangle K Inc., said in a statement that the allegations are “outrageously false and defamatory” and Hebrew National products are “100 percent strictly kosher.”

ConAgra is represented by Blackwell Burke PA. The Minneapolis law firm asked to have the case, originally filed in Minnesota state court, moved to federal court. Corey Gordon, a partner at Blackwell Burke, declined to comment on the litigation.

The plaintiffs’ firms include Zimmerman Reed PLLP and Kuhlman Law PLLC of Minneapolis and Long Beach, California’s Ridout & Lyon LLP.

The case is Wallace v. ConAgra Foods Inc., 0:12-cv-01354, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.

Law Firm Moves

Two Lawyers Join Holland & Knight’s Abu Dhabi Office

Marc Sukkar joined Holland & Knight LLP as a partner in its Abu Dhabi office. In addition, Nijoe Joseph is returning to that location as an associate.

Sukkar focuses on construction law, energy and dispute resolution, the firm said in a statement. Most recently, he was senior counsel for Msheireb Properties, a Qatar Foundation unit.

Holland & Knight’s Abu Dhabi office opened in 2008. The firm has more than 1,000 lawyers worldwide.

Partner Rejoins Allen Matkins in San Francisco Office

Mark Mengelberg returned to Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP as a real estate partner in the firm’s San Francisco office. Mengelberg was a partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP for the past six years, with an emphasis on real estate transactions and finance. He worked at Allen Matkins as an associate from 2004 through 2006, the firm said in a statement.

Allen Matkins is a California-based law firm with about 220 attorneys.

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