A television movie scheduled to premier on Monday will highlight some of the most embarrassing moments of the past decade for the nation's trial lawyers.
InJustice recounts the stories of several nationally prominent members of the plaintiffs’ bar who made millions in litigation before falling from success in criminal cases. The movie, with financing help from the legal arm of the business-backed U.S. Chamber of Commerce, goes so far as to label the tactics of some plaintiffs’ lawyers a “cancer” on the nation.
The movie is set to debut two weeks after another legal documentary, the pro-plaintiff film Hot Coffee, appeared on television. The timing appears to be coincidental because both works have been years in the making, but they’re likely to serve as counterpoints for each other as trial lawyers and businesses contend for the public’s support.
InJustice is set to air at 10 p.m. on Monday on Reelz, a cable movie channel, though its creators are hoping to make it more widely available in the future.
Executive producer Brian Kelly said in an interview that he wanted to make a movie that focused on the crimes that some trial lawyers were committing as they tried to put together cases. InJustice zeroes in on Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who made millions in tobacco litigation before being convicted in a Mississippi judicial bribery scheme, and on Milberg Weiss partners William Lerach and Melvyn Weiss, two famed securities class-action lawyers who pleaded guilty in a case about kickbacks to plaintiffs.
“If these are three of the most influential trial lawyers in the country, and they do end up in jail, what is wrong?” Kelly said.
Kelly said he knew little about those criminal cases until he began making InJustice about three years ago. Other things inspired him to pursue the project: a Reader’s Digest story about failed silicosis litigation, in which medical diagnoses were retracted after fraud allegations, and Kelly’s own experience with the legal system when he tried to evict a tenant who then sued him in Maryland state court.
“What they did successfully was just keep me in the court system. I won, but it cost me $80,000,” he said.
The movie includes clips from interviews with a handful of well-known corporate defense lawyers, including John Beisner, head of the mass torts practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Philip Howard, a partner at Covington & Burling.
Click here to see the movie’s trailer.