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It would have been impossible for a New York County Supreme Court clerk to backdate an asbestos claim on behalf of Weitz & Luxenberg, and the lawyers who made that charge in a lawsuit should be sanctioned, according to attorneys for the New York firm. Rebutting the most sensational charge yet to be made in the bitter fight between G-I Holdings and the leading actors in the plaintiffs bar, Weitz & Luxenberg last week asked Judge Robert W. Sweet to sanction G-I Holdings’ lawyers, Thomas Kavaler of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel and Peter N.Wang of Friedman, Wang & Bleiberg. Elkan Abramowitz of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Silberberg also asked Sweet to throw out the complaint that charged that a paralegal at Weitz & Luxenberg was sent to 60 Centre St. to meet with the clerk and arrange the resurrection of a time-barred asbestos claim. The allegations, Abramowitz said in his memorandum, “are riddled with factual defects that G-I Holdings and its counsel could readily have discovered from a check of the public record and an examination of their own files.” The main defect, Abramowitz said, concerned an allegation made by Kavaler and Wang that Supreme Court clerk Elba Aguilar made false entries in a “log book,” or “minute book,” at the court in May 2000 at the behest of Weitz & Luxenberg. “It is a matter of public record that ‘minute books’ are used to record the filing of documents in only those cases that were commenced prior to Jan. 1, 1993,” Abramowitz said. Abramowitz attached an affidavit to his memorandum from Chief Deputy County Clerk James A. Rosetti, who said that for cases initiated after Dec. 31, 1992, minute books were no longer used — the court moved to an electronic database system. Abramowitz further noted that the alleged backdating could not have happened because there was no remaining claim to backdate: “All pre-1993 cases Weitz & Luxenberg commenced against GAF [G-I Holdings' predecessor in interest] were resolved prior to or as result of a 1993 settlement agreement entered into by Weitz & Luxenberg and GAF’s agent, the Center for Claims Resolution … .” And not only were all cases involving GAF settled nearly seven years before the alleged backdating occurred, Abramowitz said, but Weitz & Luxenberg “never filed an amended complaint in which it sought to add GAF as a defendant in such a case.” The rebuttal by Weitz & Luxenberg came on Thursday, one day after lawyers for both sides in the dispute argued motions to dismiss the fraud complaint involving the backdating incident and another amended complaint filed since Sweet dismissed the bulk of the action in December. The suit filed in January of last year alleges that Weitz & Luxenberg, Baron & Budd, and Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole worked to extort large settlements from GAF and other asbestos makers through the massing of claims both real and invented. G-I Holdings and its chairman, Samuel Heyman, also charged that the lawyers threatened to sabotage negotiated settlements if the company continued backing an effort by Congress to cap asbestos-related recoveries and attorney fees. MANY CLAIMS DISMISSED Following Judge Sweet’s December dismissal of racketeering claims against Baron & Budd and other claims against all three law firms, only claims in contract and for tortious interference with economic advantage remain in the case. Abramowitz attached to his memorandum affidavits from Elba Aguilar, the paralegal who was accused of being part of the backdating of a claim, and Aguilar’s daughter, Alicia Ostacher, also a paralegal at the firm. Abramowitz said that in “asserting this baseless claim for fraud,” G-I Holdings and its attorneys violated “each and every provision” of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and should be sanctioned — including for alerting the media to “disseminate allegations in a baseless and defamatory complaint … .” He said further: “[O]ne may readily question whether the claim for fraud was advanced in order to redress a legitimate grievance against Weitz & Luxenberg, or instead to slander the firm, tarnish its reputation and the reputation of its employees, and further the public relations campaign that G-I Holdings and its Chairman, Samuel Heyman, have long been waging against the law firms and attorneys who represent individuals exposed to asbestos.” Abramowitz asked for an unspecified amount in sanctions to be imposed to cover attorney fees expended by Weitz & Luxenberg in seeking to dismiss the fraud claim and bring the sanctions motion. Wang could not be reached for comment, but, on Friday, Kavaler said, “There is no end to the lengths they will go to avoid dealing with this charge on the merits.”

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