Posts Tagged ‘Bill Lerach’

Scruggs indictment, day two

David Rossmiller at Insurance Coverage Blog (who’s also a co-blogger of mine at Point of Law) continues to be the must-read source on this sensational story and its fast-breaking developments. He’s posted a PDF of Jones v. Scruggs, the lawsuit before Judge Lackey by lawyers who say they were cut out of Katrina fees. He also offers some answers to the question posed by a commenter at Above the Law, who asks, “What kind of cheap-o offers a $40,000 bribe to resolve a dispute over $26.5 million in attorneys fees?!” (To begin with, the ruling sought from Judge Lackey would not have disposed of the fee claim, just sent it to arbitration.) Martin Grace scents a ripe irony in the fee-dispute lawsuit, noting that it charged Scruggs with engaging in the same sorts of tactics toward fellow lawyers that he regularly accused insurers of practicing toward their insureds: “lowballing claims and producing fake documents in support of the claims.”

Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft writes that Judge Lackey “presumably [agreed] to tape his calls with the defendants. I suspect the F.B.I. also got a wiretap on Scruggs’ or his co-defendants’ phones, since there are several calls described in the Indictment that don’t involve Judge Lackey. Getting a wiretap on a law firm’s telephone is unusual — particularly due to the substantial and cumbersome minimization efforts required to ensure that calls of clients and lawyers unrelated to the criminal investigation are not overheard.” At the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, columnist Sid Salter has more on co-defendants Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson. A PDF of the indictment is here.

The internal cohesion of the anti-insurer lawyer consortium known as the Scruggs Katrina Group (SKG) appears at present to be under extreme pressure. Rossmiller reports that “policyholder lawyers in general tell me they are seething over Scruggs” and in particular that at least some lawyers who have been his allies “don’t want their names and their cases tarnished with the Scruggs name”. On Thursday an extraordinary contretemps developed in which SKG co-founder Don Barrett of Lexington, Miss. sent a letter (PDF) to a judge hearing Katrina cases against State Farm, suggesting that SKG was being re-formed without Scruggs and would take over the litigation with he, Barrett, as lead counsel (Lattman, WSJ). Within hours, Scruggs had dispatched a letter of his own (PDF) saying that Barrett was misinformed, that it was up to plaintiff families to decide who they wanted to represent them, and that many would undoubtedly wish to retain Scruggs (second posts at Lattman and Rossmiller). As of Thursday evening, the Scruggs Katrina Group website has prominently posted the Scruggs letter but not the Barrett one; one might speculate that if some sort of split within SKG is imminent, the website operation, at least, may have maintained loyalty to the Scruggs side.

On the statewide political repercussions, see Majority in Mississippi, Sid Salter at the Clarion-Ledger, and Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing, who also quotes Salter in a comment thread predicting: “The next sob story will be that Dickie’s indictment is about Bush administration persecution of trial lawyers and a rehash of Paul Minor’s problems.” Take it away, Adam Cohen and Scott Horton!

On political repercussions nationally, it didn’t take long for the Hillary Clinton campaign to cancel the Scruggs-hosted fundraiser that was to have been headlined by husband Bill Clinton next month (Associated Press, WSJ Washington Wire). The North Dakota political blog Say Anything thinks politicos in that state should return the (rather substantial) sums they have received from Scruggs and colleagues, but one may reasonably assume that such calls will be ignored, just as elected officials have been in no hurry to divest themselves of the booty collected from such figures as felon/mega-donor William Lerach.

Where are Scruggs’s admirers and defenders? One can only suppose that somber music is playing in the corridors at the business section of the New York Times, which has run one moistly admiring profile of the Mississippi attorney after another in the past couple of years. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the Times’s very restrained story on the indictment was in a suitably inconspicuous position on the paper’s online business page — the 15th highest story in the left column, in fact. The story, by serial Scruggs profiler Joseph B. Treaster, quotes the relatively ambiguous line attributed to defendant Timothy Balducci — “All is done, all is handled and all went well.” — but omits the far more smoking-gunnish “We paid for this ruling; let’s be sure it says what we want it to say.” And things are anything but upbeat at Mother Jones, where Stephanie Mencimer concedes that she finds the indictment “pretty damning“.

More links: Paul Kiel, TPM Muckraker (indictment “devastating… it doesn’t look good for Scruggs”); Legal Schnauzer (defender of Paul Minor distinguishes the two cases); WSJ interview with Judge Lackey (sub-only) and editorial (free link), Rossmiller Friday morning post (certain details in indictment suggest that a conspiracy insider, possibly Balducci, may have cooperated with prosecutors)(& welcome Instapundit, Point of Law, TortsProf, Adler @ Volokh, Open Market, Y’allPolitics, Majority in Mississippi, Rossmiller readers).

Crocs footwear fad fades

And, as the night follows the day, there descend the class-action shareholder lawyers, led in this case by San Diego’s not-at-all-tainted Coughlin Stoia of Bill Lerach fame. (“Crocs facing possible suit despite earnings hike”, Northern Colorado Business Report, Nov. 9; Keith DuBay, “Lawyers pounce on Crocs”, ColoradoBiz Magazine/Denver Post, Nov. 15). “Imagine that! Sandals seasonal? Who knew?” (Al Lewis, “Idiots’ lawsuit is nothing but a Croc”, Denver Post, Nov. 16).

November 16 roundup

November 2 roundup

  • Curlin gets 400 new owners, as the Kentucky fen-phen plaintiffs ripped off by their attorneys get the right to seize Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion’s 20% share of the Preakness Stakes winner. [AP/NYT; earlier]
  • As Lerach pleads guilty, LA Times editorial defends class action abuses, incorrectly says that the PSLRA fixed everything and that Lerach didn’t act illegally after it was passed. [LA Times]
  • That $10.9 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church was “not about the money.” [Reuters] Really, now, this case imposing bankrupting damages for a protest on a public sidewalk is appalling. Granted: Phelps is bigoted scum, and rude bigoted scum at that. But Albert Snyder’s claimed physical injury is that the protest exacerbated his diabetes: what sort of junk science is that? NB that Snyder was not even aware of the protest at the funeral until he watched it on television. Why not liability for the news program? Even those happy to see the anti-gay bigotry of the WBC punished should take pause: Snyder testified at length that the protest upset him particularly because his son was not gay.
  • Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary (Apr. 29, Oct. 2004), on the hook for $28,000/month in child support for love child. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
  • Deep-pocket search in Great White fire case. [Childs]
  • Lawsuit over which school 9-year-old can play football for. [Tulsa World (via TMQ G. Easterbrook)] Worse, the judge rewarded the plaintiff by second-guessing the league decision. [Tulsa World]
  • It only takes ten months of legal proceedings for Cal-Berkeley to evict trespassers squatting on university property. [SF Gate]
  • Don’t hold your breath: who’s watching the trial lawyers? [Examiner]

MSM finally notices: Milberg Weiss Continues Giving to Democrats

The New York Times finally gets around to exploring the ties between indicted Milberg Weiss, convicted Bill Lerach, and John Edwards and the Clintons (as well as the four Democrat representatives who parroted statements about Milberg’s supposed innocence). Walter is quoted. (Mike McIntre, “Accused Law Firm Continues Giving to Democrats”, Oct. 18). Regular readers of Overlawyered and Point of Law knew all this months ago. Useful comparison: MSM mentions of Enron ties to the Republican party compared to the much-more culpable Milberg Weiss much-more extensive ties to the Democrats—especially given the political favors done for the parasitical law firm that have allowed it to extract billions of dollars from investors.

October 15 roundup

  • Louisiana attorney general Foti, under fire over his attempt to prosecute Dr. Anna Pou in Katrina deaths, faces tough re-election challenge [Times-Picayune, Lafayette Advertiser; earlier]
  • Classic “Hershey’s liable to obese Americans” print satire now has a short audio version [Onion radio]
  • Criticize alternative medicine at your peril? U.K. libel law helps stifle an opponent of homeopathy [Orac]
  • Tennessee trial lawyers’ lobbyist comes under harsh public spotlight following lurid crackup of House Judiciary chair Rob Briley [Nashville Scene; earlier]
  • Invoking CAFA, judge throws out coupon settlement in Sharper Image air purifier class action [Krauss @ Point of Law]
  • In 4-4 split, Supreme Court lets stand a ruling that NYC must pay private school tuition for Hollywood exec’s ADHD son though he wouldn’t give city program a try; issue likely to return soon [NYTimes; earlier]
  • Veteran journalists Patrick Dillon and Carl Cannon ink deal for book on rise and fall of Lerach tentatively titled Circle of Greed [WSJ law blog]
  • Unforeseen consequences dept.: plan for retirement community catering to gays may be derailed by workings of antidiscrimination law [Miller, Independent Gay Forum]
  • HIPAA an impediment to doctor-patient emails? [CareCure Forums via KevinMD]
  • Update on fraudulent liens filed by prison inmates to harass court personnel (Mar. 31, 2004): system strikes back with extra 20-year term for one offender [Texas Lawyer]
  • EEOC says Massachusetts employer must accommodate eyebrow-ring-wearing employee who claims membership in “Church of Body Modification” [five years ago on Overlawyered]

October 10 roundup

  • She wore a wire: defense attorney says administrative assistant to one of the three lawyers in Kentucky fen-phen scandal worked as FBI mole, circumventing attorney-client privilege [AP, Courier-Journal, Lexington Herald-Leader, ABA Journal]
  • Suing a lawyer because his deposition questions inflicted emotional distress? No way we’re going to open those floodgates, says court [NJLJ]
  • Counsel Financial Services LLC, which stakes injury lawyers pending their paydays, says it’s “the largest provider of attorney loans in the United States and the only Law Firm Financing company endorsed by the AAJ (formerly ATLA)”; its friendly public face is a retired N.Y. judge while its founder is attorney Joseph DiNardo, suspended from practice in 2000 “after pleading guilty to filing a false federal tax return” and whose own lend-to-litigants operation, Plaintiff Support Services, shares an office suite with Counsel [Buffalo News] The firm’s current listing of executives includes no mention of DiNardo, though a Jul. 19 GoogleCached version has him listed as President;
  • Patent litigation over cardiac stents criticized as “a horrendous waste of money” [N.Y. Times]
  • More on the “pro bono road to riches”, this time from a California tenant case [Greg May, Cal Blog of Appeal]
  • Not a new problem, but still one worth worrying about: what lawyers can do with charitable trusts when no one’s looking over their shoulder [N.Y. Times via ABA Journal]
  • Has it suddenly turned legal to stage massive disruptions of rush-hour traffic, or are serial-lawbreaking cyclists “Critical Mass” just considered above the law? [Kersten @ Star-Tribune]
  • “Look whose head is on a plate now”: no tears shed for fallen Lerach by attorney who fought him in the celebrated Fischel case [ChicTrib, San Diego U-T]
  • “Jena Six” mythos obscures graver injustice to black defendants, namely criminal system’s imposition of long sentences for nonviolent offenses [Stuart Taylor, Jr. @ National Journal — will rotate off site]
  • Economist David Henderson on restaurant smoking bans [Econ Journal Watch, PDF, via Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”]
  • Technical note: we learned from reader Christian Southwick that our roundups were displaying poorly on Internet Explorer (Ted and I use other browsers) and we found a way to fix. So, IE users, please drop us a line when you encounter problems — we may not hear about them otherwise.

Feds indict Mel Weiss

Critics long derided the federal investigation of Milberg Weiss as slow to produce results, but things are moving along at a brisk clip now, with an indictment charging the nation’s best-known class-action securities lawyer with conspiracy, racketeering, obstruction of justice and making false statements, just after his best-known former colleague at the firm, William Lerach, agreed to cop a plea deal. “In addition, Steven G. Schulman, a former senior partner at the Milberg Weiss firm, agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge, prosecutors said.” (AP/Business Week; Jurist “Paper Chase”; ABA Journal first and second stories. Documents, all PDF: Milberg Weiss superseding indictment; Schulman charge, plea, press release).

The Sirota & Sirota law blog, an “unfriendly competitor” of Milberg Weiss in the class-action biz, has this post from June offering some perspective on the ongoing investigation.

Lerach was bundler for Edwards

As Walter noted, Lerach was a bundler for Edwards; his plea agreement included an agreement by the government not prosecute illegal campaign donations. Still, while Edwards is giving back Lerach’s personal donation, he’s holding on to the rest of the $78,000 that Bill Lerach raised for him, even as Edwards criticizes Hillary Clinton for holding a fund-raiser at Jones Day (whose attorneys have given more money to Obama) and taking money from lobbyists. Edwards hasn’t given back the $125,000 Geoffrey Fieger is indicted over raising for him either.