Class Actions

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….

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* Thanks to a partner from K&L Gates, victims of revenge porn will be able to rely upon the assistance of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project to guide them through the courts pro bono. [National Law Journal]

* The latest Princeton Review rankings are out, and now you can find out if you attend a law school that has some of the best professors in the country. Spoiler alert: Yale Law isn’t No. 1. [Huffington Post]

* Calling all lawyers and law students! If you bought a Red Bull in the past 12 years to get through an all-nighter, then you’ll be able to make some quick cash from this class action settlement. [BuzzFeed]

* It seems Madam Justice Lori Douglas, the Canadian judge whose nude pictures were leaked online, is no longer facing sexual harassment charges. That must be nice for her, all things considered. [CBC News]

* Per federal prosecutors, if you’re not too high to suck at playing games on Xbox, then you’re not too high to forget about friends of the accused Boston bomber removing evidence from your room. [Bloomberg]

* Adrian Peterson’s felony child abuse trial is supposed to begin in December, but it could be delayed because the judge may have to recuse. That’s what happens when you call lawyers “media whores.” [CNN]

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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A rather cold fish.

* If you’ve ever wondered what’s being said about Supreme Court justices during the vetting process, we’ve got a great one-liner about Justice Breyer, who’s apparently a “rather cold fish.” Oooh, sick burn. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The NLJ 350 rankings are here, and this is where we get to see the big picture about the big boys of Biglaw. In 2013, it looks like headcount grew by 3.9 percent, which is good, but not great, all things considered. Meh. [National Law Journal]

* A Wisconsin judge is the latest to give her state’s ban on same-sex marriage the finger, and she did it with flair, noting in her opinion that “traditional” marriages throughout history were polygamous. [Bloomberg]

* The Ed O’Bannon antitrust case against the NCAA is going to trial today before Judge Claudia Wilken. Since it could change college sports forever, here’s everything you need to know about it. [USA Today]

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of those employed in the legal sector is at its lowest level since the beginning of 2014, with jobs still being shed. Welcome, graduates! [Am Law Daily]

* UC Irvine Law has finally earned full accreditation from the American Bar Association. We’d like to say nice work and congrats, but we’re pretty sure the ABA would fully accredit a toaster. [Los Angeles Times]

God Hates You, Buffalo

There is a scene in the film Buffalo ’66 in which Christina Ricci’s character tap dances at a bowling alley. She’s wearing a very short lilac dress to go along with her tap shoes and she begins her dance slowly. She ends it slowly too. The whole thing is slow, a Thorazine shuffle committed to celluloid by one of this country’s truly weird film directors. The scene prompted Roger Ebert to remark, “What’s this scene doing in “Buffalo ’66″? Maybe Gallo didn’t have any other movie he could put it in.” What’s this paragraph doing on Above the Law?

This week, the Buffalo Bills managed to be at the center of the sporting universe for the first time since Frank Wycheck lofted that perfectly tight spiral into the arms of Kevin Dyson. Before that, it was the 4 Super Bowl defeats. The point here, if there ever is one, is that the Bills are destined to occupy our collective conscious every few years as the butt of some cosmic joke we have yet to divine the meaning of. This week, the Bills carry on their illustrious history as God’s punchline, closing one lawsuit and preparing for another.

Let’s talk text messages and vagina fungus.

Let’s talk sports…

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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!

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