Plaintiffs firm Berman DeValerio sued attorneys Eran and Susan Boltz Rubenstein, former Coughlin Stoia attorneys, for breach of contract; in their counterclaim, the Rubensteins claim they were hired on a contingent fee basis to wrangle international clients to serve as plaintiffs in securities class actions. Lyle Roberts has the details, and the complaint and counterclaim. Alas, the case settled before details of this interesting arrangement came to light in discovery or other court filings, and it is perhaps too much to ask for questions to be asked in the nonexistent Congressional investigation of the practices of the securities class action bar.
Jonathan D. Glater reports that the former Milberg Weiss will pay $75 million over five years; the government will release a statement saying no current attorneys committed wrongdoing. (“Firm to Settle Class-Action Case for $75 Million”, NY Times, Jun. 17; also W$J). The W$J says the firm will admit that it committed wrongdoing in the past, but will not actually plead guilty–i.e., the same sort of deferred prosecution agreement that the NY Times recently condemned in the context of business. (To be clear: I’m not objecting to a deferred prosecution agreement here. Felony convictions for entities are usually effectively death sentences, and that is pointless if the guilty parties have actually left the building.)
- Schadenfreude overload: Eliot Spitzer fighting with Bill Lerach’s old law firm. You see, Spitzer returned Lerach firm’s money after the indictment (unlike many other Democrats); when Lerach left the firm, Spitzer hit them up for cash again; now, they’re the ones seeking money. [WSJ Law Blog; NY Sun]
- Breakthrough on Keisler nomination. [Levey]
- Sued for accurately saying government employee was a Mexican. [Volokh]
- Global warming lawsuit finds conspiracy in free speech. [Pero]
- Yet another free speech lawsuit: 50-Cent sued for “promoting gangsta lifestyle.” [Torts Prof]
- 3-2 decision in NY Appellate Division: Not a design defect for tobacco companies to sell cigarettes that aren’t light cigarettes. [Rose v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.; NYLJ/law.com via Prince]
- Meanwhile, tobacco companies are also being sued over light cigarettes. Second Circuit tosses Judge Weinstein’s novel class certification (Point of Law); Supreme Court grants cert in Altria Group v. Good.
- Defensive medicine one of many reasons that health-care costs so much in US [New York Times]
- Eyewitness testimony: you can’t always believe your eyes. [Chapman]
- First-hand report on Obama’s views on guns. [Lott]
- Ethical problem for law firm to be representing judges in litigation seeking pay raise? [Turkewitz]
- Judge expresses surprise at how many law firms want in on fees in Visa/MasterCard issuer settlement [NYSun]
- Mississippi bill would require a lawyer’s presence at real estate escrow closings; so rude to cite the profession’s self-interest as a factor [Clarion-Ledger]
- Following Coughlin Stoia’s lead, Mark Lanier announces he’s expanding into intellectual property litigation [The Recorder]
- Maryland legislation would require state-aided colleges and universities to report on what they’re doing to advance “cultural diversity” [Examiner via Bader/Open Market]
- New era at UK pubs? Under new directive, “employers will risk being sued if a bar worker or waitress complains of being called ‘love’ or ‘darling’, or if staff overhear customers telling sexist jokes.” [Daily Mail]
- ACLU just sued city of San Diego and snagged $900K in legal fees, but that’s no impediment to the city’s council’s enacting a special day of tribute to the group [House of Eratosthenes]
- George Wallace, who’s guestblogged here, hosts twin editions of Blawg Review #153 at his blogs Declarations & Exclusions and A Fool in the Forest, on piratical and Punchinello themes;
- Obama won’t support lowering drinking age [Newsweek]
- Such a shame for entrepreneurial plaintiffs, post-Proposition 64 if you want to sue a California business you might actually need to have been injured [CalBizLit]
- Time mag appeals $100 million Suharto libel ruling [IHT]
- Hey, no fair enforcing that fine print disclaiming liability for sweepstakes misprints [three years ago on Overlawyered]
- Speaking of patients who act against medical advice and sue anyway: doctor who advised against home birth is cleared by Ohio jury in $13 million suit [Plain Dealer and earlier via KevinMD]
- UK: “A feud over a 4ft-wide strip of land has seen neighbours rack up £300,000 in lawyers’ bills, and left one family effectively homeless.” [Telegraph]
- Last of the Scruggs judicial bribery defendants without a plea deal, Dickie’s son Zack, takes one [Folo]
- By reader acclaim: securities trader sues over injury from lap dancer’s attentions [AP/NY Sun]
- Amid the talk of FISA and retroactive telecom immunity, it would be nice to hear more about the actual lawsuits [Obbie]
- Australian worker loses suit over firing despite a doctor’s note vouching that stress of worrying about upcoming football game made it medically necessary for him to take day off to go see it [Stumblng Tumblr]
- Megan McArdle and Tyler Cowen toss around the question of federal FDA pre-emption of drug liability suits, as raised by Medtronic;
- Should Coughlin Stoia have bought those stolen Coke documents? For one lawprof, question’s a real head-scratcher [David McGowan (San Diego), Legal Ethics Forum] And WSJ news side is oddly unskeptical of trial lawyers’ line that the affair just proves their power to go on fishing expeditions should never have been curtailed [Jones/Slater]
- Dashboard-cam caught Tennessee cops red-handed planting marijuana on suspect, or so Jonathan Turley suggests — but could it be a little more complicated than that? [WSMV, AP/WATE] (& Greenfield)
- “Heck Baptists don’t even sue you for disagreeing with them,” though no doubt there are exceptions [Instapundit; NYT on Danish cartoons; Ezra Levant with more on those Canadian speech tribunals]
- Bestselling authors who sue their critics [four years ago on Overlawyered]
Do they often do business this way? The law firm of Coughlin Stoia, known as Lerach Coughlin before the departure of now-disgraced Bill Lerach, has been vying for lead counsel status in a shareholder class action against Coca-Cola. Now Roger Parloff at Fortune “Legal Pad” (Feb. 28) reports that a special master on the case has recommended that the firm be disqualified for “extremely troubling” conduct which it then defended after exposure using “pretextual” arguments. It seems two former Coke executives approached the law firm of Milberg Weiss (predecessor before its split of Coughlin Stoia), one of them in possession of more than 3,000 company documents he’d taken on departure, many stamped “confidential”. The law firm then agreed to pay the execs at least $75,000 to serve as “consultants”, part of the deal consisting of access to the documents, which it then used in its complaint.
When the consulting agreement came to light more than a year ago, Coughlin Stoia lawyers backed [Greg] Petro’s claim that neither he nor they had thought he was taking Coke documents without authority because, among other things, Petro had been ordered, when terminated, to “clean out his office.” Special Master [Hunter] Hughes found that such a command could not “rationally be construed to authorize Petro to walk off with company documents, any more than it authorized him to take the company’s desk, chairs, and computer.”
Hughes also rejected arguments that the firm was not really buying the documents, just entering into a consulting agreement, and a public-policy style argument that Petro’s conduct should be condoned because he was a whistleblower trying to expose corporate wrongdoing.
In a footnote, Hughes found that public policy arguments weighed in the other direction: “On a very practical level, for the Court to give Plaintiffs’ counsel a pass on this conduct, would simply invite terminated employees, particularly of public companies, to on a wholesale basis remove company documents following their termination in hopes they can sell them should the company be sued.”
Plaintiff Trish Wiener “believes Dannon misled her, and she wants to milk it for all it’s worth”, reports the Los Angeles Times. The paper’s reporter seems almost disrespectful of this very serious legal action, which claims the bacterial cultures in Activia and DanActive yogurt aren’t really as salubrious as the ad puffery would have you believe. Most dramatic-irony-freighted quote, from a lawyer with the California firm of Coughlin Stoia, which is representing Wiener: “Companies are getting more and more aggressive in their advertising claims. They end up playing off people’s general fears and concerns.” Just to clarify, that’s a quote by a lawyer from Coughlin Stoia, and not a quote about that law firm, which is best known for until recently (in its Lerach Coughlin incarnation) being the home base of disgraced felon William Lerach. (Alana Semuels, “Yogurt maker sued for claims”, Jan. 24).
Meanwhile, Michael Krauss at Point of Law (Jan. 24) discusses the recent settlement of a class action against Bed Bath and Beyond over disputed bedding thread counts.
- Hush up with those jokes, now: Lerach Coughlin lawyer hailed as hero after jumping from his BMW to save pregnant woman attacked by pit bulls [ABA Journal]
- The “murky area between zealous advocacy and improper conduct”: Judge Preska sanctions Cleary Gottlieb for litigation abuse [WSJ Law Blog, Lat]
- Out-nannying them all? Edwards says his health plan will legally oblige everyone to go in for checkups with the doc [AP; MagicStats, Howard, Althouse]
- Apparently we missed out on the Aug. 31 celebration of Love Lawyers Day [Giacalone]
- To settle lawsuit by psychiatrist’s family, Augusten Burroughs agrees to call “Running with Scissors” a “book” rather than “memoir” [Althouse]
- Will contest over Maryland judge’s estate has dragged on for fourteen years [Washington Post]
- Recap of Flea fiasco (doc liveblogging his own trial); we get randomly mentioned [American Medical News; earlier]
- “Viacom charges man with violating his own copyright, after he YouTubed their program that used his video.” [Reynolds](but see: Evan Brown via Coleman]
- Is your lawyer a “chicken catcher” or a “chicken plucker”? [KevinMD]
- When if ever should “best interest” custody standard override parent’s right to free exercise of opinion, religion, cultural affiliation, etc.? [series of Eugene Volokh posts]
- Don’t forget to join our new Facebook group with distinctive content [if you’re a member]
- New at Point of Law: Texas judge’s son withdraws from odometer class action; what do environmentalist litigators have against whales?; N.Y. Times’s born-yesterday Vioxx coverage (and this from Ted, which is pretty devastating); Dickie Scruggs takes down an insurance commissioner; sexual assault foreseeable when fraternity left in possession of unsupervised motel room? Marshall, Texas dignitaries rally to save their special court; and much more.
Law.com reports in its summary:
Renowned plaintiffs attorney William Lerach, lead partner at Lerach Coughlin, announced Tuesday he’s stepping down from the firm he started when he split off the West Coast offices of what is now Milberg Weiss. Lerach said he’s planning to take some time off. That could include going to prison, or at least the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Lerach is said to be nearing a deal with federal prosecutors related to legally questionable payments Milberg Weiss made to its lead plaintiffs and a former expert witness.
The WSJ Law Blog similarly reports that “Lerach has not been charged, but he is in advanced talks with prosecutors on a plea deal that could be announced in September and involve serving prison time, according to two people familiar with the investigation.” It also has Lerach’s departure memo to colleagues at the law firm that will now be known as Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins (cross-posted from Point of Law).
That’s what three clients are alleging in court papers about Bill Lerach’s $10 million settlement in 2004 of a securities case called Yusty v. Tut Systems. Carlos Horacio Yusty, Andres Jaramillo, and Rodrigo Jaramillo say that by the time they got wind of the settlement two years later, all the proceeds had been distributed and Lerach and partner Darren Robbins of Lerach Coughlin had cashed a $2.5 million fee. The trio’s lawyer, Bruce Murphy of Vero Beach, Fla., also says he was done out of a referral fee. The class-action sultan’s (and Robbins’s) response to the charges isn’t known yet. Roger Parloff of Fortune has a full report (Legal Pad, May 13).