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Daily Journal Names Three KVN Partners to its List of the Top 100 Lawyers in California

The Daily Journal

John W. Keker

In the midst of the worst drought in the history of California, Keker secured a $188 million award for his client, San Diego County Water Authority, for overcharges by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Both sides are armed with legal heavyweights, with John B. Quinn and Eric J. Emanuel of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP representing the water district defendant. But Keker emerged victorious in July after a five-year battle.

According to him, the ruling ­ which was finalized in August­ would save San Diego County water customers about $2 billion dollars over the next couple of years. San Diego County Water Authority v. Metropolitan Water District, CPF­10­510830 (S.F. Super. Ct., filed June 11, 2010).

In January, Keker also scored a victory for Major League Baseball at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against claims of antitrust violations brought by the city of San Jose. San Jose seeks to get approval to bring the Oakland Athletics to downtown San Jose, a move that is opposed by the league and the San Francisco Giants, who view Silicon Valley as their territory.

Keker said, “It was the right decision because the 9th Circuit and district court had no business trying to overrule the Supreme Court.”

Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922 and has remained mostly intact despite various court challenges since then.

San Jose has petitioned for certiorari, though Keker and observers think it's a long shot. City of San Jose v. Of ice of the Commissioner of Baseball, 2015 DJDAR 601 (9th Cir. Jan. 15, 2015).

In addition to his court victories, Keker said a highlight of his year has been his appointment by President Obama in April to the board of the Presidio Trust to help run the national park.

Robert Van Nest

Van Nest helms the defense in an epic Silicon Valley antitrust case, and leads Google Inc.'s counsel in its blockbuster patent fight with Oracle America Inc.

Even with those cases in play, the lawyer said his biggest recent accomplishment was a summary judgment ruling in January for client SanDisk Corp., a multi-billion­ dollar maker of flash memory software.

Round Rock Research LLC sued the Milpitas-based company for a flash memory patent infringement. “According to Round Rock, most of San Disk's revenue was in play since that's what they make,” Van Nest noted.

But U.S. District Judge Richard G. Seeborg squelched the suit, ruling Round Rock lost control of its patent when it licensed sale of it in Japan. The ruling will have a larger impact, Van Nest predicted, because it indicates the so­-called “exhaustion doctrine” ­ that licensing a patent exhausts the original holder's right of control ­ applies even when the first sale is outside the United States.

Van Nest also steered defendant SanDisk to victory in a Delaware jury trial versus Round Rock.

As for the lawyer's more famous cases, Van Nest is waiting for U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh to give final approval to a $415 million settlement between Silicon Valley companies and engineers who allege the high­tech titans conspired not to poach each other's workers. In re:High­Tech Employment Litigation, CV11­2509 (N.D. Cal., filed May 23, 2011).

And the lawyer is still in the throes of litigation between Oracle and Google over Google's alleged Java patent infringement. That matter is headed to a San Francisco federal jury trial sometime in 2016. Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc., 750 F3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

Elliot Peters

Ten years of litigation came to a fruitful end in February when a unit of Community Health Systems Inc. and three hospitals in New Mexico agreed to pay $75 million to settle a False Claims Act suit.

Peters represented a whistleblower who alleged the hospitals tricked the federal government to match donations made to county governments.

In another more well known case, Peters is preparing to defend disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong against claims by the United States Postal Service that Armstrong's doping scandal besmirched the agency's image. Peters spent his summer taking a dozen or so depositions for the trial that is expected to start in spring 2016.

“It's a very, very ill­conceived argument,” Peters said. “The USPS had every reason to believe the sport was a cesspool for [performance ­enhancing drug] use.” Floyd Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong's who had his Tour de France victory stripped after his own doping scandal, is aiding in the case.

“Landis knows he can get up to 25 percent of whatever the government could get from Lance, and when you think about it, he's just trying to prosper from his own wrongdoing,” Peters said.

Armstrong is an unusual client ­ a polarizing celebrity reviled for his decade of doping doublespeak whose Livestrong Foundation has raised more than $400 million for cancer survivor services. Peters sees Armstrong as a competitor who realized the only way to beat his cheating competitors was to join the crowd.

“People see him and tell him what he means as a survivor,” Peters said. “I've come to really like Lance.”