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….

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* 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….

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* “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….

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