Melvyn Weiss

Melvyn Weiss

The rise and fall of Melvyn Weiss is one of the most dramatic stories within the legal profession. The Bronx-born Weiss, a graduate of NYU Law School, founded Milberg Weiss, which went on to become the nation’s top class-action securities firm. Weiss and his partners became millionaires many times over.

But it turned out that the firm rested on shaky ground. In 2008, Mel Weiss pleaded guilty to participating in a kickback scheme that helped him get clients and cases. Weiss got sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison and had to pay more than $10 million in forfeitures and fines. Milberg Weiss itself had to pay $75 million to settle charges relating to the racketeering conspiracy.

Too bad Weiss had to do prison time. House arrest would have been pretty sweet in his waterfront mansion on Long Island’s Gold Coast, now on the market for $18.8 million….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyerly Lairs: From A Big House To The Big House And Back Again — Mel Weiss’s $19 Million Mansion”

* It’s springtime, and the nation’s highest court is getting ready to drop some of its biggest decisions yet. If Tolkien had written this, Justice Kennedy would be the one to bear the One Vote. [UPI]

* But for SCOTUS to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the people, its justices must do battle against a “modern-day tsunami of special interests.” How well are they doing? [National Law Journal]

* To answer that question, let’s look at their record. Political labels aside, thus far, the Roberts court has shaped up to be “the most pro-business court since the mid-1930s.” [New York Times]

* Meanwhile, Justice Thomas has been busy taking shots at President Obama, noting that he always knew the first black president had to be pre-screened by “the elites” and “the media.” [Mother Jones]

* Sometimes even federal prosecutors are willing to take pity upon rich old white men: Mel Weiss, formerly of Milberg LLP, won’t be returning to jail after his foray into DUI territory. [Am Law Daily]

* “Chevron can afford to litigate this case ‘until hell freezes over.’ But [Steven] Donziger can’t.” As it turns out, clients who can’t pay their bills are problematic for John Keker of Keker & Van Nest. [Reuters]

* Penn State Law is continuing with its plans to fleece students at two separately accredited sites, because clearly what the world needs right now is MOAR LAW SCHOOLS. [Centre Daily Times]

Melvyn Weiss, founder of the famous (or infamous) plaintiffs’ firm Milberg LLP, and the man who put the “klass” in class action litigation, landed in hot water back in December when cops pulled him over on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The 77-year-old lawyer was still serving out the last couple months of probation stemming from his 2008 guilty plea for paying kickbacks to lead plaintiffs. Now the judge is calling Mel Weiss back into court to figure out what to do about this violation of Weiss’s probation.

But in the meantime, we can get a giggle out of the alleged details of Weiss’s arrest….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Mel Weiss Learns You Can’t Say Your ABCs Without D, U, and I”


* “Beware of conservatives bearing gifts.” While there may be a federalism argument to be made in the DOMA case, it’s really about discrimination. It’s too bad some are afraid to stand up and say that. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* Sooo… was Melvyn Weiss, founder of Milberg LLP, really old, really drunk, or really old and drunk when he allegedly recited part of the alphabet as, “H, I, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, S, X, U, V, W, S, I, C”? [Am Law Daily]

* “Can’t fire me, I quit” moments are much better when they involve partners. Ogletree’s ex-VP was asked to leave over a dispute with another lawyer, so he resigned. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The U. of Arizona is thinking about lowering tuition by 11% for in-state students and 8% for out-of-state students. On behalf of your indebted students, MOAR doing and less thinking. [Arizona Republic]

* The only thing that’s worse than allegations of insider trading is having your ex-wife’s post-divorce suit reinstated. This is really the last thing Steve Cohen needs right now. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Earlier this week, Governor Chris Christie banned minors from using tanning beds without parental consent. Fare thee well, GTL. Young Jersey Shore wannabes must be weeping. [Clarion Ledger]

Last week, I headed downtown to meet with Stephen A. Weiss and Eric Jaso, partners at the Seeger Weiss litigation boutique. Weiss co-founded the firm with Christopher Seeger in 1999. Jaso, who just joined the firm from Stone & Magnanini, is a friend and former colleague of mine from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They kindly agreed to be interviewed about what it’s like to work at an elite, plaintiff-side litigation firm.

Here at Above the Law, we’ve always had strong coverage of the large, defense-oriented firms that collectively constitute Biglaw. In the past few years, however, we have dramatically expanded our offerings related to smaller law firms. We currently have three columnists — Brian Tannebaum, Tom Wallerstein, and Valerie Katz — writing in this space, in addition to the small-firm coverage generated by our other writers.

Consistent with this editorial expansion, I was eager to meet with Weiss and Jaso and hear about Seeger Weiss (which is relatively large for a plaintiffs’ firm, but small compared to a Biglaw firm). I’ve always wondered why more law school graduates don’t go into plaintiffs’ work and why we don’t hear about this side of practice as much. It can represent a chance to do well while also doing good, by vindicating victims’ rights or blowing the whistle on misconduct — especially in the qui tam practice area, a focus of Seeger Weiss.

Here’s what Weiss and Jaso had to say….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Portrait of a Plaintiffs’ Firm: Seeger Weiss”

* You’ve got mail! And you better hold on to it. [CNN]
* Both sides shooting to get SCOTUS to hear D.C. gun case. [New York Times]
* Milberg Weiss asking for home court advantage in trial. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Can anybody do anything based on the Mitchell Report? [Sports Illustrated]

oj simpson mug shot Above the Law no pun intended.jpg* O.J. freshly squeezed by a second co-defendant. [AP via Athens Banner-Herald]
* Law professors get appointed to do everything. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
* Nevada holds off on an execution, waiting on SCOTUS. [Reno Gazette-Journal]
* Weiss pleads not guilty. [Jurist]
* iPoison. [PC World]

* Didn’t they just execute somebody with an electric chair? And this is what gets them in trouble with the Constitution? [Jurist]
* Mel Weiss to be indicted. [New York Times]
* Oh, Al Sharpton, you’re incorrigible. [CNN]
* Judge withdraws jury instruction in Spector case; has he set up an easy appeal if there’s a conviction? [CNN]

Steven G Schulman Steven Schulman Steve Schulman Shulman Milberg Weiss Above the Law.jpgAfter we mentioned the departure of indicted partner Steven Schulman from the indicted law firm Milberg Weiss, some of you had funny things to say. See, e.g., this comment.
As it turns out, there were reasons unrelated to federal criminal charges for Steve Schulman to leave Milberg. From Legal Pad:

Schulman’s deal with the firm required that upon his departure, he receive a sum based on Milberg’s income during his last year at the firm. With 2005 a considerably better (as in, indictment-free) year for the firm than 2006, the partner had a real incentive to leave. Indeed, we’re told that by departing before the end of 2006, he’s in line to get about $5 million more than if he had waited.

It’s all about the benjamins, baby. You can take the lawyer out of the plaintiffs’ firm; but you can’t take the plaintiffs’ firm out of the lawyer.

And that $5 million could come in handy if Schulman does strike a plea deal — something that, according to lawyers familiar with the case, has not happened yet, but very well could. We hear that Schulman is open to the idea, and his switch of attorneys earlier this year — from the NY brawler Ed Hayes to former federal Judge Herb Stern — would seem to lend itself to negotiations. The hitch is that if he were to flip, Schulman would probably have to offer up a superior or two, namely Melvyn Weiss or William Lerach.

Very interesting. We know many lawyers who have worked with Judge Stern, and some say that at times he can be difficult, controlling, and arrogant (although you’d be too if you were an ex-Article III judge). But it’s certainly true that he’s not as much of a street-fighter as Ed Hayes, one of the deans of the Mafia defense bar (along with Bruce Cutler and Gerald Shargel).
The prospect of Schulman flipping on Mel Weiss or Bill Lerach is dizzying. The glee among Fortune 500 general counsels and Biglaw securities lawyers — and the Schadenfreude among less successful plaintiffs’ lawyers — would be boundless. Happy Kwanzaa!
5 Million Reasons to Quit Milberg [Legal Pad / Cal Law]
Partner at Law Firm Resigns to Focus on Criminal Charges Against Him [New York Times]
Steven G. Schulman bio [Milberg Weiss]
Earlier: Musical Chairs: 12.13.06

melvyn weiss mel weiss.jpgOne of our favorite legal reporters, Anna Schneider-Mayerson of the New York Observer — a paper that is, by the way, now under new ownership — chimes in on the slow death of securities class-action behemoth Milberg Weiss (headed by Melvyn Weiss, pictured).
Most of her piece summarizes recent developments that have been reported previously elsewhere. But the article does contain some nice color, including details about the indicted firm’s summer party on board an enormous yacht.
Some of our favorite anecdotes, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Milberg Weiss Death Watch: Partying on a Sinking Ship”