“The Justice Department’s crusade against trial lawyers, the first line in the average citizen’s protection against corporate greed, has taken a new low in the indictment of an entire leading law firm in the plaintiffs’ bar,” said the statement, which was released Friday.
The statement was signed by three representatives from New York — Charles B. Rangel, Carolyn McCarthy and Gary L. Ackerman — and Robert Wexler from Florida.
One of the founders of the law firm, Melvyn I. Weiss, who was not indicted but remains a target in the continuing investigation by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, is a high-profile fund-raiser for the Democratic Party.
Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Mr. Weiss, said that neither Mr. Weiss nor anyone from the law firm had asked the representatives to sign the statement. Nor, he said, were any promises made for future contributions in exchange for signing the statement.
Mr. Brafman said that to the best of his knowledge, Mr. Weiss had not made any contributions to Mr. Wexler’s campaign. Both Mr. Weiss and the firm have made contributions to the other three lawmakers who signed the letter, according to Mr. Brafman.
“This was a spontaneous decision by members of Congress who feel strongly that Milberg Weiss has not been treated fairly and they issued the statement,” Mr. Brafman said. “Milberg Weiss has maintained from the beginning that the work it does as a class-action law firm is very important, and we’re glad to see members of Congress agree and have the courage to say so in a public setting.”
People inside the Milberg Weiss camp have long argued that politics was behind the Justice Department’s six-year wide-ranging investigation into the law firm. Last month, the firm and two of its name partners were indicated on charges of paying more than $11 million in kickbacks to clients to serve as lead plaintiffs in nearly 150 class-action lawsuits filed by the firm over two decades.
The statement by the representatives said the Justice Department was correct to have pursued any partners or lawyers that it believed had committed wrongdoing. “But the alleged transgressions of a few individuals should not provide a cloak for the Bush administration to tear down one of our nation’s most vigorous protectors of public rights,” it said.