We Await Congressional Oversight Hearings, II

By October 31, 2007Briefly Legal

From The Examiner newspapers, an editorial, “Who’s watching the trial lawyers?”

If the lords of Congress really mean to be responsible watchdogs, they should investigate the gangrenous rot sown in the American judicial system by corrupt class action lawyers like courtroom firebrand William Lerach.

Lerach and several associates from his former New York law firm Milberg Weiss recently pleaded guilty to assorted felonies stemming from their long-running participation in an $11.8 million kickback scheme uncovered by a federal investigation launched in 1999. Federal prosecutors say the scheme funneled bribes to lead plaintiffs favorable to Milberg Weiss in more than 225 cases and resulted in an estimated $250 million in tainted fees being paid to the firm over a period of nearly three decades. Melvyn Weiss, the firm’s co-founder, goes on trial next year in the case, which also resulted in the government’s first-ever use of anti-racketeering laws to indict a law firm. Two prime issues to be addressed by Congress: How could Milberg Weiss go undetected so long and who should be held accountable?

We made the same argument for Congressional hearings on the class-action lawsuit industry in a post yesterday, but mostly as a sarcastic poke at Congressional investigators who would never hold their political benefactors accountable.

Mark Tapscott at The Examiner makes the case today in a more serious way, and the case is a good one. He concludes:

Class-action lawyers have given millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Democrats and a few Republicans. If lawmakers do not mount a credible oversight investigation, they will lend credence to the charge that they, like the lead plaintiffs suborned by Milberg Weiss, have been bought and paid for.

It is indeed a serious point, one to which Congress should pay attention.

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