By Daniel Fisher, http://www.forbes.com/
New York’s special court system for hearing asbestos cases will be on trial Thursday as defense lawyers make their case for reforms in the wake of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s indictment on allegations he accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks from one of the most prominent asbestos plaintiff firms in the state.
Administrative Judge Sherry Klein Heitler, who oversaw changes that defense lawyers say made it easier for plaintiffs to win cases in NYCAL courts and specifically benefitted Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm that allegedly paid Silver, a part-time employee, more than $5 million for client referrals from a cancer physician who secretly received money from a state fund Silver controlled.
Weitz & Luxenberg and Silver have both denied wrongdoing. Defense lawyers have long complained that Weitz & Luxenberg had special privileges at NYCAL under Heitler, however. As the firm with the largest number of asbestos cases on the docket, defense lawyers say, Weitz & Luxenberg was able to cherry-pick which cases went to trial and got first shot at juries in a court system overloaded with more than 10,000 asbestos lawsuits. Read more