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A federal judge has rejected a request for attorney fees in the $1.3 billion Swiss settlement of Holocaust claims, saying the lawyer and his client contributed nothing to the case and had essentially tried to blackmail the court. The attorney, Samuel J. Dubbin of Miami, originally asked for $3.6 million in fees for his work and another $2.3 million for research done by his client, Thomas Weiss, a founding member of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation-USA. Dubbin, of Dubbin & Kravetz, later reduced his request to $550,000 and then $300,000. Weiss withdrew his entire fee request in a letter to New York Chief Judge Edward R. Korman late last month. By withdrawing his fee request, Korman said Weiss had come to recognize that his research into the Swiss banking industry’s ties to the Holocaust had no impact on the Swiss settlement. “Mr. Dubbin,” Korman wrote in In Re: Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation, CV-96-4849, “has not.” The judge also accused Dubbin and Weiss of trying to play “hold-up” by threatening to appeal the amended settlement unless the court approved attorney fees and money to fund Weiss’ private Holocaust research. “This was beyond the pale,” Korman wrote. “I was not going to be blackmailed, particularly with funds that belong to Holocaust survivors.” The alleged “hold-up” took place during a September 2000 phone conference between the judge, Dubbin, Weiss and Burt Neuborne, a professor at New York University School of Law who has played a key role in the settlement. Dubbin, reached on Friday, defended his reputation and said via e-mail that the judge’s accusations were “incorrect and unjustified.” He said he would appeal the ruling. “The so-called blackmail was Dr. Weiss’s belief that it would serve the interests of the survivor class for settlement funds to be used to create an institute [to] examine the theft of assets by the Swiss in proper detail, which had not up to that time occurred,” Dubbin wrote. “They had an honest disagreement about the situation, and the appeal went forward.” Dubbin and Weiss became involved with the litigation after the initial settlement was announced in 1998. The survivors group, represented by Dubbin, criticized a provision of the settlement that would have released all Swiss businesses from liability other than the three named insurance companies in the suit. The provision was later abandoned, but Korman said last week that this was in no way caused by the efforts of Dubbin or Weiss. The problems with that provision began to be revealed when the Washington state insurance commissioner submitted a timely objection to the court in October 1999, the judge said. Dubbin and his client had submitted untimely papers concerning the provision, the judge said, and contributed little of value at a subsequent fairness hearing. “All told, Dubbin had a hand in submitting two things relevant to the insurance releases in this case: Five minutes of redundant and irrelevant testimony at a fairness hearing, and a three-month-late objection to the Settlement Agreement,” Korman wrote. “Neither of these actions required new research, shed new light on the issues in this lawsuit, or added anything to the work of Dr. Weiss, who no longer seeks a fee. In short, they were worthless.” In his e-mail, Dubbin said that the standing of the Washington state official was in question, and he further maintained that his client’s research contributed to the process. Neuborne, who has reviewed fee requests by the attorneys in the case, had offered a more positive assessment of Dubbin’s work, according to Korman’s ruling. Neuborne said it had been helpful in reassessing the insurance releases and exploring the possibility of health care for survivors. He added, however, that neither initiative appeared “likely to confer a benefit” on the plaintiffs. Korman said he continued to respect Neuborne’s judgment, but felt his view of Dubbin was “overly generous.” Weiss’ survivors group has criticized the Swiss settlement as unduly favoring Holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union, who will receive 75 percent of the money. Korman last month rejected criticisms of the distribution, saying the disparity was justified because of the extreme poverty of the Soviet Union survivors. Attorney fees for the Swiss settlement that have been approved since 2000 have been low compared to those normally generated by cases of this size. Around $5.3 million in fees have been approved, amounting to .4 percent of the settlement. Four of the 10 attorneys on the case’s executive committee worked pro bono or have donated their fees to charity.

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