Now, Congress, Investigate the Plaintiff’s Bar

By February 12, 2008Briefly Legal

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter handed out the toughest sentence he could to William Lerach Monday under terms of a generous plea agreement worked out between Lerach and prosecutors. And the judge wasn’t pleased.

From The Washington Post:

In selecting the maximum term, the judge decried as “breathtaking” the cash kickbacks that Lerach and others at his former law firm paid to plaintiffs in an effort to gain control of big lawsuits and win larger fees in 150 cases over 20 years.

The scheme “corrupted the law firm, and it corrupted it in the most evil way,” the judge said.

A law firm corrupted from the inside? Sounds like John Grisham’s “The Firm,” only with more realistic villains. Not that Grisham would write it.

A widely read story in the Monday New York Sun noted Lerach’s admission in a letter that the transgressions were widespread:

After they changed the law, I stopped doing it, but other people at my firm kept doing it. I didn’t know they were … I made the wrong decision and I have to go to jail.

Throw in all the conspiring by Mississippi trial lawyers — alleged and admitted — and plots by Texas trial lawyers, and you have a powerful case for endemic corruption within a politically powerful sector of the civil justice system, the plaintiff’s bar.

As we’ve argued before, the case for a congressional investigation is compelling. The Examiner also makes the argument today editorially:

This should trigger a wider-ranging federal investigation of the plaintiffs bar, if indeed such a probe is not already being conducted. Senate and House Democrats, many of whom in years past received multiple campaign contributions from Lerach and others at Milberg Weiss, could demonstrate a laudable independence by opening a congressional inquiry.

Just so.

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