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— San Diego's Luce, Forward, Hamilton and Scripps, the venerable downtown law firm, is being sued for slander and libel in a Los Angeles court by none other than Mattel, Inc., the maker of Barbie dolls. According to The Recorder newspaper of Los Angeles, Luce allegedly published a story on its website in June of last year accusing Mattel of stealing two Barbie motifs -- specifically Cool Blue Barbie and Virginia Tech University Barbie -- from a rival doll maker and attempting to drive the competitor out of business. According to the paper, the author of the allegedly libelous piece was Luce lawyer James Hicks, who was representing the Collegiate Doll Company in its copyright battle with Mattel. "These libelous statements," Mattel alleges, "were read by unknown recipients of the Luce, Forward newsletter and could also be read by California residents and anyone with access to the World Wide Web." A 1997 suit brought against Mattel by Collegiate co-owner Harry Christian, The Recorder says, was thrown out of court earlier this year by a federal judge in L.A. who also ruled that Christian's lawyer, Luce attorney Hicks, had "behaved boorishly," "misrepresented facts," and "misstated law" during pretrial procedures in the case ... In happier news for Luce, partner Charles Bird, who has successfully represented San Diego's city council in its ongoing battle to keep local voters from getting another crack at the proposed downtown baseball stadium, has won yet another big case. This time Bird beat off an attempt by ex-San Diego Superior Court judges Michael Greer, James Malkus, and G. Dennis Adams to claim that the National Union Fire Insurance Company should have paid for their defense during a federal grand jury investigation into their crimes. The insurer had written the trio's judicial liability policies. But last week the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that criminal charges against the judges -- who were ultimately convicted of various counts of bribery and racketeering and subsequently left the bench -- weren't covered: "The objectively reasonable expectations of the insured could not include the belief that coverage extended to a grand jury proceeding or other criminal proceeding."

Spotted Mayor

If San Diego mayor Susan Golding doesn't like the way she gets treated by local media, she can always head to London. Last week The Independent newspaper there ran a gusher of a story that praised Golding but mixed up some of her history: "She has a reputation for being bright, strong-willed, and courageous. She won election to the mayor's post -- like many women who attain high office -- as an outsider and by an unconventional route. She was a political innocent when she was spotted and appointed to the city council by the previous mayor, Pete Davies." Actually, Golding was appointed to the council way back in January 1981 by a council led by then-Mayor Pete Wilson ... The Blue Door Bookstore in Hillcrest, a favorite hangout of local bibliophiles and literati since 1961, has been sold to Patti De Young, former director of the Writers Voice project in Kentucky, reports Publishers Weekly. Ailing seller Tom Stoup, 67, who bought the Blue Door 12 years ago from founding partner Mary Peccolo, had said he would close the store rather than sell it to someone he thought unworthy. De Young told Publishers Weekly she would continue the current mix of titles while adding more music, art, and women's studies. Soaring rental costs are still said to be a big concern.

Ratted Out

Shipments of an exotic raw sausage seized in the Bay Area along with frozen squirrels and dead rats may have come from San Diego, according to the Contra Costa Times. Uninspected nam sausage, a hot-pork delicacy popular among Laotians and other Southeast Asians, was seized by county health inspectors at a San Pablo store during a recent bust for severe rat infestations. If not properly cured, nam sausage can cause trichinosis. The paper says an unidentified supplier travels the state, making unscheduled stops at stores specializing in Asian cuisine. "He just calls and asks, 'Do you want to buy some?'" a store owner says. Squirrels, another popular Asian food, are said to come from Northern California.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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