Silver’s law firm loses special status in courts

Written By kom nampuldu on Senin, 09 Februari 2015 | 18.18

Manhattan Supreme court officials will no longer lay out the red carpet for ousted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's former law firm after The Post exposed that Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys received preferential access to jurors.

"No more," said a jury clerk about the priority treatment that was once afforded to the firm's asbestos-related cancer cases.

"It's first-come, first-served now," the clerk added from the fourth-floor jury pool room at 60 Centre St.

The Post's Susan Edelman reported on Jan. 25 that when Weitz & Luxenberg lawyers showed up to start a trial the entire pool of 150 prospective jurors was ushered into their courtroom.

"A jury clerk told us, 'The asbestos cases are taking priority,' " an attorney who watched the incident recalled, adding that his trial was delayed until more jurors could be called in.

"All the other lawyers — and their clients — are getting screwed," he said.

Weitz & Luxenberg, which boasts $8 billion in client payouts, hired Silver, who has no background in asbestos law, to "increase the firm's prestige and perceived power," according to last month's federal indictment of the longtime assemblyman. In return Silver, who also influences the careers of top judges, was paid $5.3 million for a no-show job.

But since Silver resigned as speaker and The Post reported ties between Silver and judges who handle asbestos cases, the Weitz firm has lost its skip-the-line card.

A high-ranking court official said Weitz never should have gotten special treatment. The official explained that the rigged system screwed up the jury selection process for everyone else.

"It definitely slowed everything down," the source said, noting that Manhattan courts, among the busiest in the nation, already struggle to pull in a sufficient number of jurors on a daily basis.

When a case is taken out of turn, you "have people waiting around for juries for days," the source said.

Court spokesman David Bookstaver insisted that "no changes" have been made with respect to jury pools and that the mesothelioma cases only get priority access to juries because they're mass tort suits with large caseloads.


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