Ah, the hypocritical irony: Bill Lerach moves to keep his sentencing documents for the Milberg Weiss kickback scandal under seal, perhaps to protect the identities of the 150 people who wrote on his behalf. [NY Sun] Any politicians we should know about? Portfolio has the briefing; the DC Examiner comments. Prosecutors have asked for 24 months (out of a possible 33-month maximum under the Guidelines); sentencing is February 11.
Following up on our earlier dispatch, the Daily Business Review reported last week that "Embattled lawyer Jay Wingate agreed Thursday to drop out of 77 shipboard injury cases after Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines claimed his firm paid a cruise employee for inside information. Wingate said he is closing his practice, but the future of the cases is uncertain. ... a fired Royal Caribbean employee said she accepted cash from two Wingate investigators in exchange for information about lawsuit settlement authorization, including the amount of money the cruise operator was willing to pay to settle cases."
Prof. Richard Nagareda of Vanderbilt Law has made a big splash with his new volume Mass Torts in a World of Settlement, which argues that the fair and socially efficient resolution of mass injury cases is going to require revising cherished old notions of individualized treatment and client control in litigation. In our newest featured column, a piece written for this site, Prof. Nagareda concisely explains why he thinks it's time for new rules.
The three lawyers accused of stealing more than $65 million from clients had argued that federal investigators violated confidentiality rules when they sent law firm employee Rebecca Phipps into private meetings to gather evidence of the scheme. "U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Wehrman declined to dismiss the indictment but agreed to hear more information about evidence gathered during the course of the investigation," per the Lexington paper. Judge Bertelsman imposed unusually heavy bond requirements: $52 million for William Gallion; $45 million for Shirley Cunningham, Jr.; and $5 million for Melbourne Mills, Jr. (earlier).
South Florida Daily Business Review: "Two investigators with a Miami law firm paid a Royal Caribbean Cruises employee to obtain inside information on the amount of money the company would be willing to pay to settle workplace injury claims, the employee alleges in a sworn court affidavit. The affidavit by the Royal Caribbean supervisor is attached to motions asking Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stuart Simons to disqualify the Wingate Law Firm of Miami from 75 pending lawsuits brought on behalf of cruise line crew members and passengers by the firm. A hearing on the Miami-based cruise line's disqualification requests is set for Thursday."
Spectacular developments in the Scruggs scandal, which I'm covering over at Overlawyered (as is David Rossmiller at his blog).
P.S. Corrected to reflect charges being filed as an information rather than an indictment.
There has been a lot of complaining about the billable hour in recent months, but a new firm is putting money on the idea that clients are ready to abandon it. The Valorem Law Group, consisting of three former BigLaw partners from Chicago and Los Angeles, is opening in Chicago, will offer flat-rate services and, like Summit Law Group before it, a "value adjustment line" (May 2) that permits clients to choose their own billing amount. The firm eschews big offices, though will be based in a big downtown Chicago building instead of the suburbs, and claims it will outsource a lot of work currently done by high-billing associates at other law firms. [National Law Journal ($)]
Patricia Hynes, who spent 24 years at now-disgraced Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach and more than ten on its executive committee, is now slated to become the next president of the New York City bar association. The favorable assumption is that Hynes, a former prosecutor who became a name partner in the firm, was systematically duped by her former colleagues, as Roger Parloff at Fortune notes:
While being a dupe is not unethical, and certainly not illegal, itís no badge of honor, either. For idealistic young law students making their career choices, it must have been reassuring if not inspirational to see former Manhattan executive assistant U.S. attorney Pat Hynesís name so prominently displayed on Milbergís letterhead. It vouched for the integrity of the whole operation. Whether she knew it or not, part of what she was being paid to do there for 24 years was to lend the firm an aura of integrity that, judging from three top partnersí guilty pleas, it didnít deserve.
Before assuming the high professional honor of a bar presidency, Parloff wonders, shouldn't Hynes be more willing to answer questions about her time at Milberg?
Let's hope our column of a year ago did some good. Best snippet of Boston Globe story:
"We're certainly in favor of people not being cheated; we were only opposed to anything that leads to the perception that you can't trust your lawyer," said Stephen A. Lechter, an executive board member of the Bristol County Bar Association, which had fought the proposal.
A salute to attorney (and friend of this site) Peter Morin, who with other Bay State reformers had to push for years against entrenched local Bar resistance.
Via Rossmiller: On Thursday, Jan. 17, the Federalist Society is holding a lunchtime panel discussion (PDF) entitled: "Is the Mississippi Bar Doing Enough To Combat Corruption and To Protect the Honor and Integrity of the Profession?" Timing could scarcely be better as rumors are flying fast of potentially major developments in the Scruggs prosecution. And for those who are following one of the most curious threads in the Scruggs backstory -- the matter of P.L. Blake, who appears to have been steered as much as $50 million of the tobacco settlement for services that include clipping newspaper articles and having a sense of where the Mississippi legislature was going -- Tim Kalich has a piece in the McComb Enterprise-Journal sketching things out nicely.