Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another Defendant Pleads Guilty in the Milberg Weiss Prosecution

One of the original defendants in the Milberg Weiss kickback case pleaded guilty, leaving only two individuals remaining along with the firm.  Seymour Lazar entered a guilty plea to obstruction of justice, filing a false tax return, and making a false declaration in federal court.  Lazar had served as the representative plaintiff in a number of Milberg Weiss class actions, and admitted to accepting $2.6 million from the firm for his compliant service as the named plaintiff in the actions.  According to an AP story (here), prosecutors will recommend the eighty-year old Lazar be sentenced to home detention due to his declining health.  Lazar is unlikely to be a witness in the prosecution of Melvyn Weiss, the only attorney from the firm who is fighting the charges after three of his former partners -- Steven Schulman, David Bershad, and William Lerach -- pleaded guilty and admitted to making the payments to class representatives.  Lazar proclaimed his innocence rather loudly after being indicted, and would not be a particularly strong witness for the government if he is only sentenced to home detention. 

The plea deal with Lazar lets the government puts its focus on Weiss, who has indicated that he has no intention of making a deal -- although this case has shown that hardline statements about seeking vindication at trial do not necessarily mean the case will play out in court. The strength of the government's case will be the testimony of Schulman and Bershad, who dealt with Weiss directly on the payments. Lerach is not required to cooperate as part of his plea deal, and his contentious relationship with Weiss, which led to the break-up of the original version of Milberg Weiss in 2004, would not make him an effective witness.  (ph)

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The report regarding the sentencing of Seymour Lazar
does not tell the entire story, and seriously
mischaracterizes the circumstances and this fine man.
I have known Mr. Lazar for over twenty years, and know
him to be the kindest,one of the most brilliant,
honorable and generous persons I've ever met.
Earlier in life, as an attorney, Mr. Lazar defended
and gained acquittal for Lenny Bruce in an obsenity
trial, and as a partner of the legendary Melvin Belli,
he committed himself to many charitable and
philanthropic endeavors, including support for causes
as diverse as helping the boat people during the
Vietnam War to supporting a group of Buddhist
artisans, which resulted in his meeting and being
blessed by the Dali Lama. Furthermore, what all these
sentencing articles do not reveal is that Mr. Lazar's
involvement in class action lawsuits were for the
benefit of all of us. Truly an iconic and eccentric
personage, Mr. Lazar has known and befriended by
Cannonball Adderley, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg,
Lenny Bruce, Duke Ellington, the Grateful Dead, and
Maya Angelou. (Are you starting to get an idea, that
there is MUCH more to this dear man, than the above
article reveals? ) As an example of some of the class
action suits he masterminded was "Lazar vs. Hertz",
wherein Hertz ceased from charging unfair amounts of
money for fuel, when a customer returned the car with
less than a full tank. Another recent example of the
good things he accomplished was the class action
lawsuit against Denny's, which eliminated the policy
of making people of color wait hours to get a table.
These are just a few examples of causes, Mr. Lazar
felt were "doing good things". In the Palm Springs
area, where he lives, he has donated hundreds of acres
of land for desert conservancy. From my perspective,
he engaged in these class action suits NOT for
personal gain as is alleged, but to use his legal
talents for his fellow man. I have been saddened to
see what tactics our government has employed in their
quest to bring an end to class action lawsuits, and he
has suffered greatly for being uncooperative and
refusing to be a pawn in an overall strategy to bring
down Milberg Weiss. I don't know whether our
government's quest to crush Milberg Weiss is a good
one or not, the legal issues involved are far too
complex for me to grasp. I only know this, the world
is alot place because and for the things that Mr.
Lazar has done in his life.

Posted by: Craig | Jan 30, 2008 11:08:11 PM

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