Results matching “"sheldon silver"”

Sheldon Silver profiled - PointOfLaw Forum

The Assembly Speaker, now routinely hailed as the most powerful man in New York government, is described as flexible on every topic but one, liability reform. Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute: "Shelly the trial lawyer and Shelly the speaker are the same person. Trial lawyers always make their money not by expanding the pie, but by extraction. He's not interested in reform." Silver does take exception when an interviewer refers to New York's chief justice, who has rapidly been steering the court in a pro-plaintiff direction, as: "Your appointee to the Court of Appeals, your friend Jonathan Lippman." [Orthodox paper Vos Iz Neias?]

Albany: Senate boss joins plaintiff's firm Belluck & Fox - PointOfLaw Forum

"[John] Sampson, the state Senate Democratic leader, quietly accepted a job last month as 'counsel' to Belluck & Fox, a politically connected Manhattan law firm that specializes in asbestos litigation and that claims to have won $220 million in judgments." Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, of course, has long been on board at one of the city's biggest tort firms. "Like Silver, Sampson won't say how much his job pays. And, as is the case with Silver's firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, a founding partner of Sampson's firm, Joseph W. Belluck, sits on the board of the state Trial Lawyers Association." One veteran lobbyist said "the trial lawyers are now covered in both houses". [NY Post via NY Civic]

Around the web, June 4 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • "Lerach disbarred, but could return for Armageddon" [CalLaw Legal Pad]
  • Calif. Supreme Court decision banning balance billing will harm emergency room care [Mark Morocco, L.A. Times via White Coat]
  • Distinguishing the injured from the uninjured in the MoistureLoc contact lens cleaner mass tort [Beck & Herrmann]
  • New pressure on New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to disclose his earnings from tort firm Weitz & Luxenberg [NY Post]
  • "How dare you petition the government?" New lobbying restrictions will curb unwanted advocacy in the capital [ShopFloor]
  • Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald, of the ever-accusatory manner, had case before Sotomayor as lawyer, got 1/3 loaf [WSJ Law Blog, scroll]

Backroom deal to lift New York med-mal fee caps - PointOfLaw Forum

"Gov. Paterson wants to hand the state's powerful trial lawyers a huge cash bonanza by rolling back a two-decades-old reform law that capped legal fees from medical-malpractice awards, The Post has learned." To try to buy off doctors' opposition, the deal might include a one-year freeze on the insurance rates physicians could be charged -- though of course the bill would do nothing to freeze the cost of providing such insurance, quite the reverse. (In the past, docs have gotten an unpleasant surprise after years in which insurance rates had been artificially suppressed, when they learned that rates and assessments would then have to skyrocket to cover past shortfalls).

Readers already know about the tort connections of Assembly leader Sheldon Silver, of-counsel with Weitz & Luxenberg. Not as well known are those of the governor: "Paterson's father, Basil, is partner at the Long Island tort-law/lobbying firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein. Lifting the malpractice cap would mean a huge payday for Meyer, Suozzi. And a very happy Paterson pere."

No more prepack asbestos bankruptcies? - PointOfLaw Forum

We and others (above all Prof. Lester Brickman) have been consistently critical of the gamesmanship and power plays involved in the "prepackaged" bankruptcies of various companies sued in asbestos litigation, in which asbestos plaintiff's lawyers have sometimes effectively seized control of the bankruptcy process (in cooperation with current management) to frustrate the legitimate interests of non-asbestos creditors and insurers. Now New Jersey bankruptcy judge Kathryn Ferguson has dismissed the attempted prepack of the Congoleum Corporation, a flooring manufacturer, in what American Lawyer's David Bario calls a "feisty" ruling (PDF) that could discourage such attempts in future. Check out Bario's article for reminders of the far from attractive conduct of (among others) Joe Rice of Motley Rice and Perry Weitz of the Sheldon Silver law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg.

Around the web, September 29 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Erin Brockovich enlists as pitchwoman for NYC tort firm Weitz & Luxenberg, of Sheldon Silver and asbestos fame, but there's no telling when her reputation will catch up with her [NY Post, NY Daily News]
  • Whoever thought "liar loans" would end badly? Quite a shocker that was [Malanga, Real Clear Politics]
  • Class-action suit seeks end to Building Industry Association of Washington support for Dino Rossi, challenger to Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.) [WSJ editorial]
  • Chemerinsky: new Irvine law school "has no ideology" [L.A. Times]
  • Don't blame "mark-to-market" accounting for the catastrophe, argues Nicole Gelinas [City Journal]
  • Court of appeals appointments by next president likely to make big impact [Legal Times]

Sheldon Silver and Counsel Financial - PointOfLaw Forum

Today's New York Times reveals that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is an investor in Counsel Financial, the litigation finance outfit, thus multiplying his potential conflicts of interest as Albany's leading guardian of Litigation Lobby interests. Counsel's book of business includes stakes in suits against the MTA and other state agencies whose legal environment is shaped by the legislature's enactments. Reporter Danny Hakim quotes our own James Copland as well as a number of other observers and gives some sense of the general controversies that have swirled about the litigation finance business. However, as readers of my write-up last fall at Overlawyered based on Buffalo News coverage are aware, the particular details of Counsel Financial's rise might raise an eyebrow or two on their own:

Counsel Financial Services LLC, which stakes injury lawyers pending their paydays, says it's "the largest provider of attorney loans in the United States and the only Law Firm Financing company endorsed by the AAJ (formerly ATLA)"; its friendly public face is a retired N.Y. judge while its founder is attorney Joseph DiNardo, suspended from practice in 2000 "after pleading guilty to filing a false federal tax return" and whose own lend-to-litigants operation, Plaintiff Support Services, shares an office suite with Counsel [Buffalo News] The firm's current listing of executives includes no mention of DiNardo, though a Jul. 19 GoogleCached version has him listed as President.

Maybe the Times will explore some of these questions in follow-up reporting.

Around the web, May 6 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • NY judges' deplorable "Black Robe Flu" slowdown aimed at Albany lawmakers' firms [Giacalone; also see Overlawyered and my comment at NYPIAB]; Judith Kaye issues denial [NYLJ]; Kaye in judge-pay suit wants Sheldon Silver to disclose what he gets from Weitz & Luxenberg [NY Post edit]; and will a Buffalo judge kick W&L off its representation of Erie County in drug-pricing suit, with its potentially huge contingency fee? [NY Post, Buffalo News] And isn't it kinda weird that the NYT still hasn't covered this?
  • Employee's having obtained and sold confidential business information no bar to winning FMLA verdict against Chase that could reach $7.6 million [Fulton County Daily Report]
  • Welding rod defendants holding off the courtroom onslaught? [Fisk, Bloomberg via ABA Journal; earlier]
  • Alabama's drug-pricing, oil-royalty suits stoke memories of the state's old reputation for insider justice [Tucker/AVALA, Huntsville Times]
  • "Very bad idea": bill co-sponsored by Obama to force firms to identify and disclose their major beneficial owners [Bainbridge]
  • "Lawsuit Reform Huge Boost to Texas Economy" per report by economist Ray Perryman for Texans for Lawsuit Reform Foundation [release; McAllen Monitor]
  • Mustn't condone tobacco companies funding research that might prevent lung cancer deaths, they've got a conflict of interest after all [Shaywitz/T. Stossel, TWS]

Silver's pick for judicial panel - PointOfLaw Forum

Can you guess who Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has picked as a member of a state panel that screens appellate and other judges? The New York Post's Kenneth Lovett reported the other day that it's none other than Arthur Luxenberg, name partner of the giant personal-injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg, at which Silver has been "of counsel" since 2002. ("He and the firm have repeatedly refused to reveal who his clients are or how much he is paid, although sources have said it could be in the seven figures.") Critics of the move include not only Post editorialists (more) but even a spokesman for the New York Public Interest Research Group -- and it's a pretty safe bet that trial lawyers have gone too far when even NYPIRG criticizes them.

NY counties hire Silver's firms for drug-price suits - PointOfLaw Forum

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, says it's just a coincidence that Erie, Schenectady and Oswego counties, which must go hat in hand to the Speaker for appropriations, hired the law firm of which he's of counsel to pursue Medicaid drug reimbursement suits against pharmaceutical companies for a 20 percent share of the proceeds. More on pharmaceutical pricing actions here, here, here, etc.

Lawsuit Heaven�NYC's Hell - PointOfLaw Columns

By Walter Olson

(Reprinted from the New York Post, 6-15-06)

A report released Tuesday by the city's Independent Budget Office found that the share of the city bud get devoted to lawsuit outlays doubled from 1990 to 2004. And the whopping $575 million the city spent to settle lawsuits in 2004 is expected to balloon to nearly $800 million by 2010.

The 2004 figure testifies eloquently to the cost of the Litigation Lobby's stranglehold on Albany. It amounts to $71 for every man, woman and child in the city, a sum that gets passed directly into the city's tax burden. (Although trial lawyers like to portray the liability crisis as one of the insurance system rather than of the lawsuit system, New York City happens to be self-insured, so the raw numbers tell the tale.)

Is this just the inevitable cost of running a big city? Well, the 2004 budget for the city of Denver is available online, and it includes a line item for liability claims of - no misprint - $3.9 million, a number that would practically disappear as a rounding error in Gotham's legal budget. That's $7 per resident, about one-tenth the burden New York taxpayers face.

Yes, New York's government does more than Denver's - especially in running hospitals - but much of the tenfold difference per capita remains once you control for such factors. And the $575 million figure doesn't include several huge sources of lawsuit exposure for New York taxpayers - starting with the MTA, with its subways and buses, and the Port Authority, which was a magnet for liability lawsuits even before 9/11. Add them to the count, and you'd vault the figures far higher.

The bigger story here is not just the continued growth in lawsuit outlays. It's that Gotham was already facing a crisis in liability payouts 10 or 15 years ago, and things keep getting worse rather than better, despite the vocal complaints of virtually every mayor.
And also despite some concerted efforts by the city to limit its exposure. Sidewalk slip-fall claims are off sharply, for example, because of a 2003 law backed by Bloomberg that sticks adjacent property owners (as opposed to City Hall) with liability for many slip-falls. Victor Serby, a New York attorney who often represents plaintiffs, says the Health and Hospitals Corp. has acted lately to clean up its chaotic patient recordkeeping, a step that is likely to help the city in its defense of malpractice claims.

Overall, 30 percent of city lawsuit outlays go to medical liability claims, where million-dollar payouts are common. The most important category of these claims by far are cases of infant brain damage, most of which are not avoidable by obstetricians no matter how skillfully they practice, but which (particularly before plaintiff-friendly Bronx and Brooklyn juries) can generate enormous verdicts even when they rest on highly doubtful scientific theories of blame. In fact, the most likely hope for reducing the incidence of these cases is probably improved social conditions (e.g. fewer premature births, less substance abuse by moms), rather than error-free obstetrics.

Attorney Ellen Lombardi, with the city's Law Department, said the state's appeals courts are more willing to uphold high verdicts than formerly. Plus, the city's new push to settle cases early has led to some short-term bulging of outlays.

The city has some highly regarded legal talent, and it's quite possible its strategy is sound. But the overall direction of the numbers is unlikely to improve any time soon.

Why not? Some judges in the city's own back yard are considered deeply unsympathetic to the city as defendant. But the wider reason lies in Albany: New York is one of the very few states that has enacted little or no liability reform worth the name.

And that's exactly the way the immensely successful trial-lawyer lobby - along with its favorite representative, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Weitz & Luxenberg - aims to keep it.

"A walking conflict of interest" - PointOfLaw Forum

The New York Post is again wondering how New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver harmonizes his legislative role with his day job as of counsel to personal-injury powerhouse Weitz & Luxenberg. Per the Post's editorialists, "he's never disclosed what he does for W&L."

"Boss Silver whacks taxpayers" - PointOfLaw Forum

New York Daily News editorial comes down hard on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for his maneuverings (mentioned a few days back) to derail a bill that would curb "double-dipping" in injury claims by public employees. "Because of a quirk in state law, injured public workers can sue for wages and medical costs even when, thanks to full health insurance coverage and generous disability benefits, they haven't lost a dime of either," the News says. Henry Stern's readers at NYCivic "StarBlog" also comment.

"Lawsuit Heaven -- NYC's Hell" - PointOfLaw Forum

I've got an op-ed in today's New York Post about the rising tide of liability lawsuits against New York City and its taxpayers (cross-posted at Overlawyered). For more on how Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office disposes of reform legislation in Albany, see Henry Stern's NYCivic, Jun. 14. Further: Jun. 18.

"The Lawyers Killing N.Y." - PointOfLaw Forum

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Weitz & Luxenberg) is so avid to eliminate the statute of limitations for civil rape claims, the better to open the sluices for negligent-security and premises-liability suits against businesses, that even the National Organization for Women is upset with him. It's all kind of symbolic of the stranglehold the trial bar has got on Albany (via NYCivic.org)(more there).

False Claim - PointOfLaw Columns

By Steven Malanga

Reprinted from City Journal, 3/29/06

New York state has an enormous Medicaid-fraud problem, estimated at billions of dollars a year. To strengthen the state's weak anti-fraud program, the state assembly is pushing a New York version of the federal False Claims Act; the measure would reward whistle-blowers and their attorneys for turning in Medicaid cheats. But that measure can't be the whole answer�indeed, by itself, it could easily create as many problems as it solves.

Fighting Medicaid abuse requires a whole arsenal of weapons�new technologies to sniff out fraud, tougher criminal penalties, and increased oversight of who's allowed into the program.

Because of the power and efforts of trial lawyers like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the federal False Claims Act (FCA) gets lots of press attention in discussions of how to fight Medicaid fraud. And it has indeed helped U.S. prosecutors uncover some cheats�but it has also promoted abuse.

The law allows whistle-blowers who report fraud against the government to collect up to 30 percent of any money recovered from information they provide.

Prosecutors aided by whistle-blowers have successfully pursued several huge Medicaid-fraud cases using the FCA, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and penalties against drug companies and hospital chains for overbilling the program. But tens of those millions went to whistle-blowers and the lawyers working with them on a contingency-fee basis, setting off a flood of further lawsuits.

Since Congress amended the law in 1986, hiking the potential payout to whistle-blowers, suits have grown tenfold, with nearly 70 percent of them involving health-care companies. Since 1986, whistle-blowers have collected a staggering $1 billion.

But the huge potential payoffs invite abuse. In some cases, insiders have let fraud go on for years after detecting it, slowly gathering evidence and then leaving the company to sue.

Then there's the "protection racket" problem. Whistle-blowers, plaintiffs' attorneys, and even government prosecutors increasingly seem to be targeting legitimate businesses�using the threat of the FCA�s steep penalties (which include permanent exclusion from government programs as well as big fines and damages) to coerce companies into settling cases rather than risking a trial verdict that could bankrupt them.

A 1999 Government Accountability Office study criticized several FCA cases. In one, the GAO concluded that hospitals that had already agreed to pay steep fines to avoid going to trial had in fact been improperly accused. The study also found that prosecutors and whistle-blowers targeted some firms for investigation not because they were plausible fraud suspects but merely because they were the biggest contractors in government health-care programs�that is, the deepest pockets for large paydays.

As a result of the investigations, the GAO is now charged with monitoring how federal prosecutors work under FCA.

Plaintiffs' attorneys have helped fuel the fervor for FCA lawsuits. Shortly after Congress amended the FCA in 1986, public-interest lawyer John Phillips, who had lobbied heavily for the new legislation, set up a front group, "Taxpayers Against Fraud," to tout the law�and also set up his own private practice to cash in on the act. His firm has won some $100 million in contingency fees pursuing FCA cases, according to Forbes magazine, and its successes have attracted some 200 more contingency lawyers into the field.

Meanwhile, Taxpayers Against Fraud works the media. Cited dozens of times a year in press stories as an advocate for the FCA, it has successfully encouraged a handful of states to enact their own versions of the legislation�allowing similar suits in state courts, though state prosecutors don't operate under the GAO�s watchful eye. And press accounts on the FCA often quote Taxpayers Against Fraud without mentioning that it isn't a real taxpayer group, just a propaganda instrument of lawyers who benefit from the laws the group promotes.

One danger of the false-claims lawsuit frenzy is that it will distract from the broader work of tracking down Medicaid fraud. Local pol Mark Green�who began his public career working for trial-lawyer ally Ralph Nader, and is now running for state attorney general�last year penned a Times op-ed to lobby for a New York version of the FCA as the remedy for the state's Medicaid woes. Green quoted Taxpayers Against Fraud without mentioning that the group's chairman, Neil Getnick, is a supporter of his election bid and that Getnick's law firm could benefit enormously from a New York state law.

A New York FCA can be one weapon in an arsenal against Medicaid fraud. But it needs sensible provisions to discourage abuse, including limiting the size of whistle-blower awards and requiring that whistle-blowers try to end fraud at their employer before filing suits. The federal law has created open season on legitimate companies and sparked a plaintiffs-bar feeding frenzy. That's not what Congress intended�and no model for New York.

"Albany Inc.: New York's Huge Hidden Tax" - PointOfLaw Forum

The Manhattan Institute earlier this month released a comprehensive report entitled "Albany Inc.: The Special-Interest Conglomerate That Runs New York" (press release), which has received extensive publicity (see listing currently on Institute front page). One section of the report profiles the Empire State's powerful plaintiff's bar, which has played a kingmaker role in the state's politics under Democrats and Republicans alike. "New York has steadfastly avoided tort reform, which no doubt partly reflects the fact that key state legislators are prominently associated with personal-injury law firms�including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the chairs of both houses' judiciary committees, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) and Senator John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse)."

The idiosyncrasies of New York's liability climate have furnished a steady source of material for my writings over the years, including vicarious car-rental liability, finally overridden last year by an act of the U.S. Congress; New York City's high liability burden; and the predictably dodgy arrangements behind the state's tobacco fees.

"A Well-Oiled Machine" - PointOfLaw Forum

As part of American Lawyer's Litigation 2004 supplement, entitled "Plaintiff Power", reporter Alison Frankel profiles Weitz & Luxenberg, the firm that brought mass torts to New York City (a town whose injury bar is still better known for one-at-a-time cases). W&L now boasts annual revenue "well in excess of $75 million", having branched out from asbestos into breast and hip implants, pharmaceuticals, toxic torts and water contamination. (The asbestos revenues fund continual expansion into other areas). Some highlights:

* Perry Weitz got his start at the tort law firm of his father-in-law, the famed Morris Eisen, but left well before the indictments which led to the conviction of numerous persons at the firm for fabricating evidence and bribing witnesses. Co-partner Arthur Luxenberg is likewise an Eisen refugee. The third partner -- there are only three, although the firm employs many attorneys as well as a support staff of about 300 -- is Robert Gordon, formerly of Philadelphia's Greitzer & Locks.

* The New York state legislature pretty much made Weitz & Luxenberg's fortunes when it reopened and liberalized the statute of limitations to allow the filing of old asbestos cases, a large share of which W&L scooped up; one sign of the firm's close ties with Albany is its hiring of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as of-counsel, promising him a share of fees from cases he brings in.

* "It costs something like $25 million, Weitz says, to start up a new mass tort onslaught. "

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