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Johnnie Cochran in Pooh Heirs' Corner

December 02, 2003|Lisa Girion | Times Staff Writer

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. has himself a honey of a case.

The lawyer who helped win O.J. Simpson's acquittal on murder charges made his debut Monday as a member of a new legal team for the family suing Walt Disney Co. over Winnie the Pooh royalties.

And on the other side of the courtroom? Daniel Petrocelli, who persuaded a civil jury to hold Simpson liable for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

The Pooh case is the first in which Cochran and Petrocelli have directly squared off. They hadn't even met until they bumped into each other late last month at NBC's Burbank studios, where they were providing "Today" show commentaries on Michael Jackson's arrest on molestation charges.

Cochran is co-counsel for Patricia Slesinger and her mother, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, who sued Disney in 1991, alleging breach of contract. The Slesinger family, which inherited the rights to Pooh and other characters created by author A.A. Milne, accuses Disney of withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties for Pooh merchandise, videocassettes, DVDs and computer software.

As Disney's main lawyer, Petrocelli said he hoped the new legal team -- by one count, the Slesingers' seventh -- would speed up the case.

Cochran, who inherited more than 600 boxes of evidence, said he was eager to go to trial: "It's going to be fun."

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