Two documents have been circulated feverishly in the past week in an attempt to disparage, or to promote their use to effectively disparage Richard Halpern, a leading plaintiff advocate for the last 24 years.
- A "one off" 2007 New York Supreme Court Decision where a Halpern 130X trust was denied by a judge.
- A March 10, 2008 letter written by New York Trial lawyer Michael W. Kessler addressed to Professor Stephen Saltzburg questioning points contained in a letter sent in February 2008 on behalf of Richard Halpern by Professor Stephen Saltzburg of George Washington University Law School to a number of plaintiff trial lawyers, defense lawyers and judges throughout the United States.
Who Is Distributing This Information?
According to our sources:
- Paul Lesti, Lesti Settlements, Los Altos, CA, former President of SSP and NSSTA member at the American Association for Justice (AAJ) meeting, apparently "accosted" trial lawyer attendees at every turn to hand out copies of the case. Lesti also attempted to distribute copies at the Summit Settlements annual meeting in mid June.
- Rhonda Bentzen, a factoring broker, former structured settlement broker with ties to the SSP, obtained a copy of the Kessler letter and sent it to Jack Meligan.
- Jack Meligan, co-Founder of Settlement Professionals and former President of the SSP received the material from Bentzen and distributed it to his troops, estimated to be close to 30 in number.
- Certain members of Ringler Associates, Inc., who manned the Ringler Radio bus at the American Association for Justice meeting, apparently handed copies of the case to lawyers who boarded their bus.
- A feeding frenzy ensued days after AAJ meeting ended when numerous members of the settlement industry apparently contacted a writer for DealFlow Media Structured Settlements Report in the hopes of broadcasting the material. The result was the opposite of what they hoped. The editors of Deal Flow Media are probably falling off their chair to hear this but in THIS case..."Stay tuned to DealFlow Media Structured Settlements Report for further details".
- A number of sources supplied this author with copies of the material before, during and after the AAJ meeting.
- More are believed to be circulating the material.
Why is an embarrassment to SSP and NSSTA?
I have already covered the 2007 case in my prior post
This author spoke with Michael Kessler last week. I've known Mike a long time. I understand why he wrote the letter, but learned that he was unaware of the background that led to the Saltzburg letter. Perhaps many of the "distributors and promoters" are similarly unaware?
To those unaware, the February 2008 letter (addressed by Kessler) that was executed by Saltzburg and other distinguished law professors, several past Presidents of AAJ/ATLA, the current sitting President of AAJ, Joan Claybrook, the President of Public Citizen, senior officers of Sun Trust Bank and other prominent trial lawyers to counter what is, in my opinion, a "bogus parallel" drawn between Halpern and convicted felon James Gibson by New York Judge Paul Victor in New York Judicial Institute materials which included portions of a September 2006 letter from NSSTA counsel John Stanton of Hogan and Hartson. Why should it surprise anyone that an individual that has had a presence at 48 consecutive AAJ/ATLA meetings is well connected?
The NJI material contained the statement that the "NSSTA was asked to provide guidance of its view of the Halpern Trust. Upon inquiry the following explanation and guidance was provided by counsel by letter dated....". The opening sentence was about James Gibson, the convicted felon.
The New York Judicial material with this "bogus parallel", including the Stanton letter, found its way into the hands of certain NSSTA/SSP members who apparently used the material in competition with Halpern. What choice do you have when someone mischaracterizes a critical component of your life's work as being "similar" to that of a convicted felon?
Further, inasmuch as the Saltzburg letter was sent to judges all over the country, the distributors of the material may wish to ask Judge Paul A. Victor whether HE received a copy of the Saltzburg letter and what HIS reaction was.
I accept the risk that this post will make me unpopular with certain 2006 era NSSTA Board of Directors and members of NSSTA because the way I read the September 2006 letter the manner in which the message was delivered was just wrong. The existence of the letter was apparently kept secret from members as I only learned of it last summer. On March 1, 2008 I asked questions about this in another post and have not received an answer. Now the actions of the particular shoot first and ask questions later members of NSSTA and SSP put the entire membership of their associations at risk.
The irony is that Halpern hates factoring company business practices as much as NSSTA and SSP members do (in some cases more).
With the permission of both Halpern and Kessler this author intends to conduct interviews of both of them. In the meantime i would ask NSSTA and SSP members to consider the ramifications of using, or continuing to use the material now having "prior knowledge" of the background.