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Leadership in Law 2014: Richard E. Shevitz

Partner, Cohen & Malad LLP, Indianapolis • Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, 1985

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15col-Shevitz.jpg Richard E. Shevitz (IL photo/Eric Learned)

Richard E. Shevitz is a well-respected litigator known for his vigorous prosecution of complex litigation, including class actions. He recently took the lead in the litigation and settlement of a class action against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles which resulted in a $30 million recovery; he’s also worked on antitrust cases here and in Iowa that resulted in multi-million dollar recoveries. Before joining Cohen & Malad, Richard was a deputy attorney general and assistant director of the Legal Affairs Department of the Anti-Defamation League. Opposing counsel calls him the “consummate lawyer,” vigorously representing his clients while maintaining a professional and courteous relationship with all parties involved.

How did you get involved in the Holocaust-related class-action litigation against Swiss banks and the prosecution of lawsuits against German industrial enterprises?

When the media first reported on the scandal of Swiss banks withholding the dormant bank accounts of Holocaust victims, we were contacted by local Holocaust survivors regarding potential claims to their family’s assets which had been missing since the end of World War II. We were also contacted by survivors in Indianapolis and Terre Haute who had not only been forced to work as slave laborers for German manufacturing enterprises during the war, but who also were subjected to inhumane medical experiments that Josef Mengele performed in Auschwitz working with German pharmaceutical companies. We joined together with lawyers from around the country in bringing a series of class-action lawsuits against the Swiss banks and a second series of class-action lawsuits against the German companies on behalf of these Holocaust survivors. The litigation and the settlement negotiations allowed me to work closely with some of the country’s most prominent lawyers as well as top government officials to achieve historic, multibillion-dollar international legal resolutions with significant political and moral dimensions.

What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

Relax. Also, relax.

What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

Working hard and working long hours are not always the same thing. Also, see answer to preceding question.

Why do you practice in the area of law that you do?

It provides tremendous satisfaction to obtain and distribute recoveries to people on claims that they would not have been able to pursue on an individual basis.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

Yes. No. Well, all right – it is that moment that unfortunately still occurs all too often today when someone who I am trying to persuade to accept my view says, “Slow down, you are talking way too fast.”

What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Summer job as an unskilled laborer on a construction site in which my duties consisted solely of hand carrying I-beams that weighed more than I did at the time.

How has the area of litigation and class actions changed since you started practicing?

The substance hasn’t changed all that much but electronic discovery, e-filing and email, in particular, have revolutionized the way we do business.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I drink massive quantities of coffee each day in a regular water glass.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

Like many people, I am involved in various civic and community causes that matter to me personally. The most important cause, however, is simply to become engaged with the civic life of the community. Becoming engaged with causes that matter to us individually enriches our society and enriches us personally as well.

Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

Although in theory the adversarial process is designed to yield the truth, in practice it often means that someone is trying to hide the truth…

We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practicing?

The increased emphasis on civility has certainly heightened our awareness of this issue, but we all have a long way to go, especially now that our communications so often take place faster and less personally via email.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

High school teacher

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Atticus Finch

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

Tax

 

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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