Florence and the Plaintiff’s Bar

Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article on the dispute among two plaintiff’s attorneys involved in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, the pending Fourth Amendment strip-search case, about who would litigate that case and with what goals. The article is behind a paywall, so to read it you have to go here and click on the link.

An excerpt:

“Susan Chana Lask is an incompetent dolt,” said Mr. Keach of Amsterdam, N.Y.

Ms. Lask, who practices in Manhattan, is no less blunt. Mr. Keach—or, as she sometimes calls him, “Mr. Leech”—is a “monster” who put profits ahead of the victims’ cause, she said.

. . .
For [Ms. Lask] called Mr. Keach, who was becoming a pro at strip-search cases after securing a $2.7 million settlement from Rensselaer County, N.Y., on behalf of 2,000 minor offenders.

“I’ve done like 20 of these,” said Mr. Keach, who began teaming up with attorney friends to do the work and share the fees. The payoff for ex-inmates ranges from $100 to $3,000, but “the mainline figure is $1,000 a head,” he said.

. . .
Nonetheless, the two took an immediate dislike to each other.

“Not only was this woman not ready for prime time, she wasn’t ready for public access,” said Mr. Keach. Fearing she would blow the case and set bad precedent, Mr. Keach said his team offered to run the case, while guaranteeing Ms. Lask a cut of any settlement.

“They start saying, ‘Give us the case, you can sit back and do nothing,’ ” is how Ms. Lask remembers it. “[You can] go buy yourself a yacht and retire,” Mr. Keach told her, she said, promising her a share of the “good life” he enjoyed through strip-search proceeds.

“I didn’t want to be any part of these nasty people,” Ms. Lask said. “They were like fleas, going from prison to prison to prison,” sucking out settlements. When she declined Mr. Keach’s invitation, he “started screaming at me and freaking out, and I hung up,” she said.

Rebuffed, Mr. Keach’s group took a drastic step, filing court papers to oust Ms. Lask as class counsel. “They wanted to steal the case from me,” she said.

“We were going to take over her case because of the sheer level of incompetence she was showing,” Mr. Keach said. But Ms. Lask fought back, and eventually Mr. Keach gave up the effort.
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When the appeals panel in Philadelphia ruled against Ms. Lask, effectively ending strip-search class actions in three states, Mr. Keach was beside himself.

“Congratulations, Susan,” he told her by email. “You killed the golden goose.”

“I thought, ‘What a pig,’ ” said Ms. Lask.

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link.