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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. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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