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SAN FRANCISCO-The California Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments this summer on whether the state's courts should be the forum for national class-action lawsuits involving securities litigation claims filed by non-residents.

The state's high court rarely hears securities litigation cases, but California courts have recently "become a major battleground" for plaintiffs attorneys who pursue cases against the state's high-tech industry, said Steven M. Schatz, a partner at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, Calif.

More than 30 securities fraud complaints have been filed in Northern California courts alone since Congress passed the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, creating tougher standards for claims filed in federal court (BI, Jan. 8, 1996). Before the reform, Northern California courts saw about one such lawsuit every two years, Mr. Schatz said.

He represents Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc., a San Jose, Calif., company that wants the state Supreme Court to rule that California securities laws are meant to protect only state residents and not everyone who merely invests in corporations within the state.

Diamond Multimedia's case reached the high court after a Superior Court in San Jose ruled that the company's shareholders could move forward with a class-action lawsuit and an appeals court declined to review the decision.

William Lerach, a San Diego attorney who represents Diamond Multimedia shareholders and who has filed numerous securities lawsuits, could not be reached for comment.