1 of 1
Milberg Weiss Lawyer Focuses
On Cases for Holocaust Survivors
By Frances A. McMorris
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 1999, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
As a teenager, she moved to
Today, Ms. Sturman, 40 years old, works exclusively on Holocaust litigation
at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, a prominent
Two years ago, when she joined Milberg Weiss as a relatively green lawyer, the firm was involved only in the big Swiss banks case that settled last summer for $1.25 billion. Ms. Sturman set out to persuade name partner Melvyn Weiss to file a slave-labor case on behalf of people who were forced by the Nazis to work for a variety of companies.
"There wasn't a day that she didn't come into my office and hawk me," says Mr. Weiss, who at first thought slave-labor claims were too old to succeed. Ms. Sturman insisted that a case could be made.
To test her theory, Mr. Weiss invited Harvard legal scholar Arthur Miller to come in and grill her about it. The two-hour meeting, she says, "was pretty intimidating," since she was only two years out of law school at the time.
But she held her ground and explained that the claims are allowed because
the 1989 reunification of
Burt Neuborne, a
Her work contributed to the filing of the first slave-labor class action, in
which a Belgian woman sued the German arm of Ford Motor Co., in federal court
"There comes a time when you have to do something about it," Ms. Sturman says. "These people suffered so enormously. There's got to be some sort of recognition of that before they die."
These days, Ms. Sturman travels to
She learned German, as well as Dutch, French and Italian, after moving to Belgium to study music and make it her career. In Germany, she played for the West German Broadcast Orchestra, married a tax attorney (from whom she has since been divorced), had a child and got involved in Jewish causes. She also began selling real estate on behalf of American and Israeli Jews who didn't want to come to Germany for the transactions.
But she found being a Jew in Germany difficult. Once, when she insisted a grocer give her a receipt for six pounds of coffee she was buying for the orchestra, he refused, saying: "I haven't seen such pettiness since the Jews left."
Such incidents soured her on Germany. So she returned to the U.S. to pursue a law degree at the University of California at Los Angeles.
After a brief clerkship with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, she
worked with Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a clinic that provides free legal
representation for the indigent, trying to speed up the claims of about 800
mostly Russian Holocaust survivors that were pending before the Conference on
Jewish Material Claims Against Germany in New York.
She also helped
Recently, an elderly Holocaust survivor came to see Ms. Sturman at her
He gets a small pension from the German government but hopes Ms. Sturman can get him an increase because he recently developed cancer. She assured him that she knows how to handle the red tape, adding, "I'm very aggressive."