Man in the Mirror

I wanted to change the world, so I got up one morning and looked in the mirror. That one looking back said: There is not much time left.... MICHAEL JACKSON


    Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

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    Moonlight

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    Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

    Post  Moonlight on Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:34 pm

    Howard Weitzman

    on the Will challenge issue:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkbayrW6jl0

    I wonder why does Katherine now suddenly feel that having John Branca & John McClain running the estate, without a Jackson family member even having a seat at the table to oversee decision, is in the best interests of Michael's legacy and children?

    I think the media have spun this to make it appear that Joe Jackson is simply after money, particularly by merging the issue of claiming for an allowance, with the separate issue of challenging the validity of the Will. Maybe he is in some ways after money, but that doesn't take away the fact that if there is any doubt about the validity of the Will, it should be investigated thoroughly.


    Last edited by Moonlight on Thu Dec 03, 2009 5:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Re: Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

    Post  Moonlight on Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:35 pm

    Some background to Howard Weitzman, who is now the lawyer for John Branca & John McClain, in respect of The Estate of Michael Jackson, make of it what you will:


    Excepts from:
    GQ, October 1994

    DID MICHAEL DO IT?
    The untold story of the events that brought down a superstar.

    Had they decided to fight the civil charges and go to trial, what follows might have served as the core of Jackson's defense -- as well as the basis to further the extortion charges against his own accusers, which could well have exonerated the singer.

    From the day Weitzman joined Jackson's defense team, "he was talking settlement," says Bonnie Ezkenazi, an attorney who worked for the defense. With Fields and Pellicano still in control of Jackson's defense, they adopted an aggressive strategy. They believed staunchly in Jackson's innocence and vowed to fight the charges in court. Pellicano began gathering evidence to use in the trial, which was scheduled for March 21, 1994. "They had a very weak case," says Fields. "We wanted to fight. Michael wanted to fight and go through a trial. We felt we could win."

    Dissension within the Jackson camp accelerated on November 12, after Jackson's publicist announced at a press conference that the singer was canceling the remainder of his world tour to go into a drug-rehabilitation program to treat his addiction to painkillers. Fields later told reporters that Jackson was "barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level." Others in Jackson's camp felt it was a mistake to portray the singer as incompetent. "It was important," Fields says, "to tell the truth. [Larry] Feldman and the press took the position that Michael was trying to hide and that it was all a scam. But it wasn't."

    On November 23, the friction peaked. Based on information he says he got from Weitzman, Fields told a courtroom full of reporters that a criminal indictment against Jackson seemed imminent. Fields had a reason for making the statement: He was trying to delay the boy's civil suit by establishing that there was an impending criminal case that should be tried first. Outside the courtroom, reporters asked why Fields had made the announcement, to which Weitzman replied essentially that Fields "misspoke himself." The comment infuriated Fields,
    "because it wasn't true," he says. "It was just an outrage. I was very upset with Howard." Fields sent a letter of resignation to Jackson the following week.
    "There was this vast group of people all wanting to do a different thing, and it was like moving through molasses to get a decision," says Fields. "It was a nightmare, and I wanted to get the hell out of it." Pellicano, who had received his share of flak for his aggressive manner, resigned at the same time.
    With Fields and Pellicano gone, Weitzman brought in Johnnie Cochran Jr., a well-known civil attorney who is now helping defend O.J. Simpson. And John Branca, whom Fields had replaced as Jackson's general counsel in 1990, was back on board. In late 1993, as DAs in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties convened grand juries to assess whether criminal charges should be filed against Jackson, the defense strategy changed course and talk of settling the civil case began in earnest, even though his new team also believed in Jackson's innocence.


    Others close to the case say the decision to settle also probably had to do with another factor -- the lawyers' reputations. "Can you imagine what would happen to an attorney who lost the Michael Jackson case?" says Anthony Pellicano. "There's no way for all three lawyers to come out winners unless they settle. The only person who lost is Michael Jackson." But Jackson, says Branca, "changed his mind about [taking the case to trial] when he returned to this country. He hadn't seen the massive coverage and how hostile it was. He just wanted the whole thing to go away."

    Complete article available via:
    http://www.mjnewsonline.com/mj.txt


    Given that the Chandler allegations and the subsequent civil settlement in particular, is the reason so often cited by people who believe that Michael was guilty, I have to ask myself, did Weitzman & Branca appear to be working in Michael's best interests then?

    I've read elsewhere, that it was actually an insurance settlement via Sony's artists insurance and that it was Sony who wanted it to 'go away' and that Michael was advised that accordingly, a source for that is required though.
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    Re: Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

    Post  Moonlight on Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:45 pm

    More background:


    Hollywood Lawyers in Love

    How two arch-enemies went from killing each other to kissing up

    Nikki Finke
    Published on May 19, 2005

    If you see a porky pixie whiz by your window, don’t panic: It’s just pigs flying in Hollywood now that two ruthless litigators with a decade-long history of bad blood between them have agreed to hold hands, sing "Kumbaya" and partner in the same firm.

    Bert vs. Howie was one of the longest-running feuds in entertainment legal circles, yet the vast majority of moguls, agents, managers and even other attorneys were unaware it was even raging. Nor were journalists, judging from the shocking lack of coverage by the mainstream media outlets. The New York Times’ new Hollywood correspondent David Halbfinger broke the news of the supposed pairing of Howard Weitzman with Bert Fields but failed to explain what made the development so interesting or even the true nature of the relationship. (We won’t mention that Fields-is-cooking-chicken-fajitas-in-Malibu laugh-riot in Sunday’s NYT timed to the release of his latest book about Shakespeare.)

    Halbfinger is new to the Hollywood scene so he can’t be expected to have a stored-up memory of who did what to whom and why. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, not to mention the feeble-minded trades, are missing-in-action on this story altogether. And that is the problem: For media who purport to cover Hollywood, they largely ignore the scandal-du-jour of the entertainment super-lawyer set.


    Let’s review the videotape, going back to 1993 when Weitzman and Fields were both stars of the media maelstrom — defending Michael Jackson as the pop singer faced a civil lawsuit brought by a 13-year-old boy who alleged the entertainer sexually molested him. Things got good fast. First there was a courtroom blunder, followed by a behind-the-scenes he-said/he-said battle, complicated by the overarching ambition of Weitzman, a USC-trained legal upstart, to score points against Harvard-educated legal legend Fields. The result was two gladiators who suddenly turned Century City into their own private Coliseum.

    A few weeks ago, Greenberg Glusker partner Dale Kinsella gingerly approached the firm’s principal rainmaker, Fields, for permission to rescue Weitzman from Proskauer Rose, which in entertainment legal circles is deemed the equivalent of Siberia. "Dale knew there had been some problem in the past. So he wouldn’t have considered making a deal with Howard without asking me," Fields told me this week.
    Fields gave his okay. "I’m a forgiving guy. You can’t go through life hating people. You’ve got to let these things go," he said. Contrary to the NYT report making it appear as if the two attorneys will be lawyering hand-in-glove, Fields will not be working directly with Weitzman. "He’ll have his own cases," Fields emphasized.
    Weitzman did not return L.A. Weekly’s phone calls.

    It’s yet another example of the business of Hollywood making for strange bedfellows when there’s money to be made. But it’s also a story of the importance of relationships in Hollywood: making them, severing them and repairing them.

    To understand the genesis and gravitas of the Fields-Weitzman feud, go back all the way to 1990 when Michael Jackson was still the not-yet-dethroned king of pop. A sudden break with his longtime attorney and adviser, Ziffren Brittenham’s John Branca, had the music world agog. Though nobody ever went public to explain what happened, Branca privately blamed the loss of his most important client on David Geffen because of a power struggle between the two men that also involved volatile music exec Walter Yetnikoff.

    Shortly after leaving Branca, Jackson changed his legal representation: The singer signed with Geffen’s attorney Bert Fields for litigation and with Geffen insider Alan Grubman for record-label work.
    Fast-forward to 1993. Fields had been batting back a bunch of real and threatened allegations against Jackson on a laundry list of matters when, all of a sudden, a child-molestation lawsuit was filed in a Santa Monica court by the Westside family of a young boy who’d spent time with the singer. Although the charges were civil, not criminal, authorities in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties were also investigating Jackson. The singer declared his innocence, but he needed to assemble a legal Dream Team.

    It was Fields’ decision to bring onboard Howard Weitzman (then of Katten Muchin Zavis) to handle the pending criminal aspects. Weitzman, of course, had gained national notoriety successfully defending auto impresario John DeLorean against drug-trafficking charges. Since then, he’d made a name in Hollywood as the pal of celebrities in trouble with the law. Together, Field and Weitzman skillfully parried with the press on behalf of Michael Jackson at news conference after news conference.
    All was well and good, until they appeared in a Santa Monica court for a civil-suit-related proceeding. Fields made a motion to delay any trial by telling the judge that a Santa Barbara grand jury, whose activities are normally secret, had convened to investigate Jackson and was on the verge of probably indicting his client. Weitzman interrupted, telling the judge he didn’t really know if an indictment was near, only that witnesses had been subpoenaed to testify before a Santa Barbara grand jury. Minutes later, on the court steps, Fields tried to retract the statement. "I was mistaken. All I know is that a grand jury has been subpoenaed. I do not know how far along they have got." Weitzman left Fields out to dry, saying, "We made a statement in court based on wrong information. It was a misunderstanding." One made worse after Santa Barbara County announced that no grand jury had yet been called in the case.

    All of a sudden, to Jackson and his family and the media, Fields looked to have committed a huge gaffe.
    Sources close to the case at the time told me Fields blamed Weitzman for the blunder because the wrong information had come to Fields directly from Weitzman. And that’s not all: Fields privately told friends he felt Weitzman, tired of toiling in Fields’ imposing shadow as a Hollywood litigator, may have gone so far as to sabotage Fields’ involvement in Jackson’s defense.

    Wait, there’s more. There was even a behind-the-scenes battle over Fields’ subsequent departure from Jackson’s defense: Did he jump or was he pushed? Weitzman quietly told reporters that Fields was fired from the team for mishandling that court hearing. Then Jackson’s family, reportedly furious at Fields, issued a statement that they could "sleep better at night" with Johnnie Cochran onboard.

    But, Fields went so far as to publicly dispute any notion that he’d been let go by the Jacksons or anyone; he said he’d resigned on November 23 but had not put it in writing until 10 days later so as not to distract from Jackson’s defense efforts. Privately, Fields explained his reason for exiting was because he no longer wanted to work with Weitzman.

    Fields appeared little hurt by the bad publicity. Weitzman eventually found himself in one uncomfortable predicament after another. Though he also had many successes, Weitzman received a lot of flak when he initially lost the Boxing Helena lawsuit defending Kim Basinger since Hollywood had perceived it as a slam dunk for the actress. Not long after, Weitzman, who’d earlier defended O.J. Simpson following a wife-beating arrest, was the first lawyer called by the football star to defend himself against murder charges. Weitzman’s involvement with O.J. made him a Hollywood pariah.

    Fields took great pleasure in any Weitzman setback. When Weitzman was going to MCA/Universal in 1995 to assist newly appointed president and COO Ron Meyer, I asked if Weitzman’s hiring was to shore up any Meyer shortcomings. "Which are made shorter by Howard," Fields shot back.
    After being forced out of MCA/Universal in 1998, Weitzman pitched several show-biz projects, but eventually beat a retreat back to lawyering.

    Fields, meanwhile, was more successful than ever, earning a nickname as "The Exterminator" for the way that he seemed to be suing the Walt Disney Co. 24/7. Since Fields works in isolation from the rest of his firm, and even other lawyers at Greenberg Glusker don’t know his cases until they hit the headlines, he and Weitzman will be able to keep at arm’s length rather easily. On the other hand, Weitzman, 60, likes to say, "I’m the logical successor to Bert Fields."
    Told about that, Fields, 76, chuckled, "That may turn out to be true. But people in my family live a long time. I’m not going anywhere so fast."

    Email at nikkifinke@deadlinehollywood.com

    http://www.laweekly.com/2005-05-19/news/hollywood-lawyers-in-love/
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    Re: Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

    Post  Moonlight on Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:49 pm

    and more:



    UPDATED: Rats Desert Sinking Ship, um, Law Firm
    By Nikki Finke | Category: Big Media, LA Times, Media | Tuesday April 4, 2006 @ 12:10am

    I was tipped that Hollywood attorneys Howard Weitzman and Dale Kinsella and their selected pals were already packing up their offices when that Los Angeles Times story appeared last Friday saying they "might" leave. So word went out to the media Monday that the rats are now officially deserting the sinking ship, aka the esteemed Century City law firm of Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger & Kinsella where Bert Fields has toiled for eons and which Weitzman only recently joined. The new firm will be called Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kum and Aldisert.

    UPDATED: But what I find especially disgusting about Weitzman's flight from Greenberg Glusker is, as a source close to the Pellicano investigation reminds, that Howard was the guy who first brought Pellicano to Los Angeles and eventually inflicted him on all of Hollywood. Lest we forget, Weitzman worked hand-in-glove with Pellicano on the John De Lorean case in the early 1980s, and for years after. Then the attorney and the P.I. had a falling out in the late 1990s, I'm told. Oh yeah, Weitzman must have been shocked, shocked, at Pellicano's connection to Fields.

    What has Hollywood lawyers running scared is the possibility of civil litigation fallout that could cripple firms caught up in the Pellicano scandal because professional liability insurance won't cover illegal activity like wiretapping.

    Plaintiff lawyers are being retained by clients who were allegedly wiretapped by top L.A. lawyers such as Terry Christensen, which may well have fallout for his famed firm of Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro.

    Already, the local legal press has speculated about that firm's tenuous future. But, unlike Christensen, Bert Fields hasn't been indicted. Yet it's his firm that is already breaking apart.

    If you want to decide just how big a rat Weitzman is (Hint: a huge one, with giant whiskers and a fat tail), read my May 19, 2005, column Hollywood Lawyers in Love about the tempestuous professional relationship between Howard and Bert dating back to their Michael Jackson days. By the way, not that I'm counting, but isn't this the umpteenth move made by Weitzman? (His skittering has included Wyman Bautzer, then Katten Muchin Zavis & Weitzman, then Universal Studios, then Proskauer Rose, then Greenberg Glusker, then this new firm. Phew!) Oh, and remember, everyone, this is supposed to have nothing to do with the Pellicano scandal. I recently spoke to Weitzman who confirmed that he's contemplated writing an autobiographical book. Why do I think I've already read a version of it? (Hint: A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey.)

    P.S. Howard also told me that, a while back, he'd talked to Allison Hope Weiner about writing the book with him. Weiner, a lawyer, had been an associate at Wyman Bautzer when Weitzman was a managing partner there, he said. Weiner is now 1/2 of The New York Times' Pellicano reporting team that has written extensively about Fields.
    http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/rats-desert-sinking-ship/
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    Re: Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

    Post  Moonlight on Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:58 pm

    and more:



    Former O.J./Jacko Lawyer Deserts Sinking Ship
    It’s time to play connect the dots in Hollywood. And yes, at the center of everything is jailed private eye Anthony Pellicano.

    Two days ago, a curious announcement emanated from the law firm of Bert Fields. Howard L. Weitzman and nine other attorneys were leaving the firm of Greenberg, Glusker, et al., to start their own firm.

    Talk about rats deserting the ship. Fields has acknowledged talking to prosecutors in the Pellicano case and to a grand jury as well. His name is all over the Pellicano story as the P.I.’s former employer. Fields insists he knew nothing of Pellicano’s wiretapping, blackmailing and illegal investigating.
    Weitzman perhaps thinks he’s slinking away before worse things happen to Fields and Co. But before he and his pals leave for greener pastures, let the record show: It was Howard L. Weitzman who brought Pellicano to Los Angeles from Chicago in the first place. The Pellicano story begins with Weitzman, who used the detective to dig up dirt when he defended John DeLorean in the early 1980s.

    This is the very same Howard Weitzman, by the way, who was O.J. Simpson’s defense lawyer for two whole days in June 1994.
    If you recall, Weitzman mysteriously resigned from the case and handed it over to Robert Shapiro. Simpson had flown to Chicago, learned of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, and then flew home. He immediately met with Weitzman. Legend has it he told Weitzman enough of the story that the attorney decided to pass on defending Simpson.
    Only the year before, in 1993, when Michael Jackson needed a criminal attorney, Bert Fields —his entertainment lawyer — had turned to Weitzman. Weitzman in turn brought along Pellicano.
    When Weitzman got out, and passed Jackson’s criminal matters to Johnnie Cochran, Pellicano stayed on the case. Weitzman continued to defend Jackson in other cases, however, including some brought by former Neverland employees.
    Nevertheless, after representing Jackson, Weitzman appeared as a commentator last year on the E! channel’s nightly re-creation of Jackson’s 2005 trial.
    It didn’t seem to matter that he’d represented Jackson or that he was now partnered in the firm of another former Jackson lawyer, Bert Fields. Was it a conflict of interest to appear on TV and talk about your former client? Apparently no one thought so.

    Weitzman has obviously been planning an escape from Greenberg Glusker for a while. In an interview with a legal trade paper called The Recorder on March 21 — a mere two weeks ago — he equivocated about leaving Fields’ firm. He told the paper he was “taken aback” by their inquiries that he was leaving to start a new firm.
    “I haven’t solidified anything,” he said. He wrote to them in an e-mail: "It's not my practice to comment on rumor and speculation, although having my own firm again sometimes seems appealing."

    Of course, Weitzman had once had his own firm. Before the whole Jackson-Simpson business, he’d his own firm for 22 years. In 1991, he joined Katten Muchin and Zavis, the firm that came to represent Michael Jackson in his cavalcade of legal actions both civil and criminal.
    After the Simpson and Jackson scandals wrapped, Weitzman left the practice of law. For a decade, from 1995 to 2005, he stayed out of the Hollywood limelight.

    But in May 2005, less than a year ago, he returned to the business by partnering up with his old pal, Bert Fields. Now it’s over. To combine two clichés: Weitzman sees the writing on the wall because he knows where all the bodies are buried. He helped Fields bury them, after all.

    Last year, during the Jackson child molestation trial, I told you all about tapes made by former (and since deceased) National Enquirer reporter Jim Mitteager. He taped every phone conversation he ever had, and when he knew was dying, he willed them to investigator Paul Barresi.
    Barresi, who once worked for Pellicano, has transcribed all of the conversations, put them on computer and cross-referenced them. And the words that come up all the time: Fields, Pellicano, Weitzman, National Enquirer. It’s amazing how all these names are connected.

    Meantime, you've probably read that film director John McTiernan was indicted for lying to prosecutors about his involvement with Pellicano — he used him to spy on film producer Charles Roven, they allege.
    In the Hollywood is a small town category: Roven is now a partner in Mosaic Media Group, which was formed by three companies including Gold/Miller Talent Agency.
    A former Gold/Miller exec, Peter Safran, figures in the lawsuit recently brought by “Scary Movie” producer Bo Zenga, who was — according to prosecutors — spied on and wiretapped by Pellicano.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,190789,00.html

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    Re: Lawyers ~ Weitzman & Branca

    Post  Moonlight on Thu Dec 03, 2009 5:28 pm


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