The plaintiff payoff racket

The Madison County Record Aug. 10, 2008, 10:50am

John Shimkus knows the abuses of some plaintiff's lawyers.

He's the congressman for Madison County, home to some of America's most notorious plaintiff's law abusers. Most of them have worked hard and spent lots of money trying to unseat Shimkus since voters first elected him back in 1996.

So we were pleased to see Shimkus flexing his home district expertise in Washington this week, joining Texas Congressman Joe Burton to cry foul over a sweetheart settlement deal for one of America's most criminal class action lawyers.

It was big headlines earlier this summer. Big shot lawyer Melvyn Weiss admitted to federal prosecutors that he had been paying plaintiffs to lead the baseless class action lawsuits he had been filing for three decades, minting himself a mega-millionaire.

Weiss' schemes paid off big time: his law firm, Milberg Weiss, managed to haul in an estimated $240 million from targeted businesses, thanks to these put-up, bought-and-paid for law suits.

His abuses didn't just make Weiss rich. He violated the legal rights of many corporate defendants. Those abuses also imposed a fraud tax on our economy, triggering higher prices for consumers and creating turmoil in the judicial branch of government.

Shimkus wants to know why Milberg Weiss only had to pay $75 million in restitution for its illegal behavior, when it pocketed so much more? And why are prosecutors allowing Mr. Weiss, who got a 30-month prison sentence and personally forfeited almost $10 million in ill-gotten gains, to share in future profits of his firm, effectively undermining its proscribed financial punishment?

Shimkus and Burton want answers. They've sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey demanding an explanation and, more importantly, asking: what's next?

In light of Mr. Weiss' stunning admissions, does the Department of Justice plan to dig deeper in its investigation of illegal class action plaintiff recruitment tactics? Shouldn't the feds be looking at other class action firms which regularly "represent" suspicious plaintiffs?

Prosecutors now know one local Congressman who wants to point investigators in the right direction.

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