Judges Grapple With Milberg Indictment

Last month’s kickback indictment of Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman is apparently a bit of an uncomfortable issue for the bench. In addition to the five L.A. federal judges who’ve now recused themselves from hearing the criminal case against the firm and its two main partners, jurists overseeing civil cases have had a range of reactions. First, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer said the indictment shouldn’t automatically jettison the firm from lead counsel status in a case.

But a week later, a Minnesota federal judge took the opposite stance, kicking the firm out of its lead counsel position in a class action.

And today, a federal judge in Oklahoma decided to split the difference in a case where he had appointed Milberg to be co-lead counsel. While defendants in the securities fraud case against Williams Communications didn’t argue that the indictment should disqualify the firm, Judge Stephen Friot in the Northern District of Oklahoma decided it might be an issue. “The court takes judicial notice that the Milberg Weiss firm has been indicted,” Friot wrote in a footnote to an order certifying the class in the case. “If this development is of any consequence in the case at bar, that matter should be addressed without delay.

“The court is considering the appointment of a master for the purpose of undertaking such investigation as may be reasonably necessary, antecedent to making a recommendation to the court as to whether this development should affect the status of Milberg Weiss as co-lead counsel,” he continued.

At the end of his order, Friot asked for briefs on the matter to be submitted by June 27.

Justin Scheck

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