Class Action

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”

In the most Canada news ever, a man has brought a class action suit against the Canadian government for its failure to control the moose population in Newfoundland and Labrador. An appeals court dismissed the claim, but personal injury lawyer Ches Crosbie vows to take his campaign all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court: “The case is unprecedented in many ways… It’s rife with live legal issues for a court of appeal.”

The theory of liability here is that the Canadian government introduced moose to Newfoundland island in 1904 as a source of food. Now their population is out of control, and motorists routinely slam into them and are injured by the large herbivores.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly… the solution is NOT to release an “apex predator” to control the moose population. A prime moose can generally not be messed with by any alpha predator. Top predators will eat some moose calves, but when you get out to check the damage the moose did to your car, the sound of timber wolves closing in around you is not something you are going to want to hear.

Oh, and for the Texans in the audience, shooting them hasn’t really been a successful answer either. Sorry Canada, you have a trophic cascade on your hands, and there is little that can be done about it….

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Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused — but we are!

Judge Richard Posner isn’t trying to entertain us. He just does.

When he benchslaps prominent Biglaw partners or government lawyers fighting marriage equality, he’s not trying to be funny. He’s just trying to understand the facts of a case or get to the bottom of the legal arguments — and he’s, well, maybe not as diplomatic as some other judges in going about his business.

Let’s check out the latest argument where Judge Posner snarked on hapless counsel….

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Well, it’s only taken a week for ExamSoft to go from a random company whose name you couldn’t remember one week after the bar exam to “ExamSoft: Destroyer Of Worlds.” Today we can report that the first lawsuit has been filed against the company. It won’t be the last.

This is going to be a fun ride, and we are only at the beginning. By next week I predict the counter-narrative to get rolling. Maybe a dean will pen a New York Times op-ed about how kids these days, with their computers and text machines and MyBooks, don’t know how to take “personal responsibility.” Somebody will say that it is the test takers’ fault, for buying a program and having the audacity to believe that it would work as intended.

Looking deeper into my crystal taco, as lawsuits proliferate, there will be a circuit split. The Second and the Seventh will affirm decisions against ExamSoft, while the Third and Fifth will reverse. The Third will say that we need to learn a powerful lesson about our over-reliance on technology, while the Fifth will hold that a reasonable person wouldn’t try to write an essay in the clouds: “that’s pure hogwash,” it’ll say.

Eventually this will get to the Supreme Court, which will rule, 5-4, to relieve ExamSoft of liability. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito will argue: “When a person, such as ExamSoft, fails so spectacularly in its duties, the key question is to determine if that person is a man or a woman. If male, the person’s own sense of shame will be punishment enough. But if female, the Court must teach a lasting lesson. Here, we find ExamSoft to be a male person, and therefore must reverse the trial courts. The students should clearly incorporate themselves if they wish to pursue further remedies.” Concurring in part, Scalia will tell us that the bar has become too easy of a test and ExamSoft merely introduced a greater barrier to entry. Breyer’s dissent will be something like: “I was robbed once just like these test takers and, goodness gracious, it was scary.”

Okay, you’re welcome. Now that we all know where this thing is going, we can savor the wonderful journey together. Let’s look at the first lawsuit….

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Chum’s in the water, folks. And here come the sharks.

Since we first learned that ExamSoft ruined the otherwise relaxing experience of taking the bar exam, we’ve anticipated lawsuits. You can’t piss off all the would-be lawyers you can get your hands on and expect to come through un-served. It is known.

One person on Twitter put it this way: “Numerosity, commonality, typicality, adequacy: Pretty sure all harmed #barexam takers could form a class action against @ExamSoft.”

This law firm is happy to get that ball rolling…

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Are you capable of working your toilet correctly?

It’s possible that you aren’t and there’s a new class action lawsuit seeking millions from the companies that have duped you into abusing your toilet privileges. Does this sound stupid? Sure. But after digging into the issue, there’s something to the suit, at least to the extent that millions in damages are directly attributable to poor toilet flushing practices.

So put down that Taco Bell Gordita and let’s talk about what you’re doing to your plumbing and the environment…

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Muscle Milk: drink this and you’ll write awesome pro se briefs.

I’m about to share with you an awesome pro se court filing from a law student who drinks Muscle Milk — enough of the stuff to belong to a class action of Muscle Milk consumers. Please try to envision what this submission might look like.

In terms of the student, I’m imagining a real meathead. He belonged to a frat in college. He’s not a great law student, but his family has connections that will help him land a job post-graduation. His bookshelf looks like this.

As for his pro se filing, it’s probably a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury (and Bluebooking errors). The UVA Libel Show would call it a Muscle-Milk-induced “roid rage of shame.”

But no, it’s not; it’s so much better than that. It’s actually a work of genius….

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Nicor Gas claims that all customers recorded heard a ‘warning’ before being recorded, and ‘consented’ by remaining on the line after the warning was given. But under the law, any consent only gave Nicor Gas a right to record, not to divulge or use the recordings. Any ‘consent’ they got from customers that permitted them to record was for the limited purpose of internal quality assurance – not for divulgence to outside parties, and certainly not for use in public court proceedings

Adam Levitt, a lawyer with Grant & Eisenhofer, in a class action filed against Nicor Gas, a natural gas distributor in northern Illinois. Nicor had a plan. They were so proud of using their recordings of customers in their defense. Too bad Illinois has an Eavesdropping Act that prohibits that. D’oh!

The law firm of Seyfarth Shaw, known for its labor and employment expertise, just released its tenth annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report. The report details the important trends in workplace litigation going into 2014 and analyzes “1,123 class action rulings on a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state basis.”

The verdict, in a nutshell, is that the Supreme Court has bent over backward to protect businesses from these suits, but they still come up… and one category of workplace suit is even growing exponentially. Any guesses?

So what are businesses going to face out there this year?

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Judge Kozinski: turning over a new LEAF?

That’s right, plaintiffs’ counsel sat down to the negotiating table and cut a deal, without knowing a single thing about what cards their opponents held. For all counsel knew — for all they know even today — there are memoranda and reports in Nissan’s internal files disclosing that the LEAF’s Lithium-Ion battery suffers from a variety of defects, and that Nissan nevertheless decided to go to market with it.

– Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, filing an objection to a class action settlement between Nissan and buyers and leasers of its electric car, the LEAF. Alison Frankel of Reuters describes having Chief Judge Kozinski as an objector as a “lawyer’s nightmare.”

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