Is This ‘Professional Objector’ a Safety Check or Frivolous Filer?
Posted Jun 5, 2008 11:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Ohio lawyer Edward Siegel is a transactional lawyer with an unusual source of extra income. In these cases, he doesn’t make money from bringing lawsuits and reaching settlements. Instead he earns fees by challenging the deals that other lawyers make.
Siegel is a so-called professional objector who challenges attorney fees and other aspects of class-action settlements, Cleveland Scene reports. Siegel entered the field about four years ago when he helped his sister object to a settlement. Now he is “one of the nation's most prolific serial objectors,” the story says.
Nonetheless, Siegel’s recent success rate has been “less than stellar,” the article claims, and gives some examples. One judge called objections to the settlement “wasteful litigation.” In a case against a lender accused of overcharging interest, Siegel withdrew his objection to a settlement after a plaintiffs lawyer claimed it was frivolous and asked for sanctions.
The publication also says that Siegel's arguments in two recent cases contain "eerily similar arguments, as if he simply cut and pasted his case together without bothering to change the language."
Asked to comment on the allegations in Cleveland Scene, Siegel told ABAJournal.com in an e-mail: “After re-reading the article, I have the following reaction: At least they spelled my name correctly. As for the rest of it, they were not so accurate.”
Siegel says, as far as he knows, he’s not one of the nation’s most prolific objectors. He says the judge’s comments about wasteful litigation were directed to a different objector, and he withdrew his objection in the lender case because of some improvements to the settlement. As for the “eerily similar arguments,” Siegel says, “that must refer to the fact that for similar arguments, I cite similar authority (which I think is good lawyering).”
He can also cite some successes. Siegel is most proud of his work in a Qwest settlement that helped reduce attorney fees by $38 million. In another case, a Florida judge said in a footnote that Siegel’s attendance at a final fairness hearing “provided a safety check for the parties and the court.”
Siegel told the Cleveland Scene that about 30 percent of his practice comes from objecting and it can be a “nice side source of income.” He says he stands up for the little guy, but some lawyers don’t see it that way.
"Lots of people don't like me because of what I do," he told the publication. "I see it as a badge of honor."
Updated at 11:30 a.m. on 06-06-2008 to include comments from Siegel.