Click to Print or Select 'Print' in your browser menu to print this document.
Page printed from: The Legal Intelligencer
Memeger Named Attorney of the Year by The Legal
Gina Passarella, The Legal Intelligencer
U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has been named as The Legal's Attorney of the Year for his many notable efforts throughout 2013, including shepherding a $2.2 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson regarding off-label marketing, filing indictments of nearly the entire Philadelphia Traffic Court and focusing heavily on community outreach.
Memeger, who was previously named as one of the three finalists for the award, was announced as the overall winner at The Legal's celebratory event Thursday evening where attorneys were also honored with lifetime achievement awards and recognitions were bestowed upon corporate law departments as part of the newspaper's Professional Excellence Awards.
A panel of esteemed members of the Pennsylvania legal community, along with two members of The Legal's staff, narrowed down the finalists for Attorney of the Year to three and then ultimately decided in early March on Memeger as the overall winner.
To view a video overview of Memeger's career, click here.
Memeger's co-finalists were American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold "Vic" Walczak and Dechert partner Robert C. Heim. Walczak was honored for his work in thwarting Pennsylvania's voter ID law and getting the state's ban on same-sex marriage tossed. Heim was honored for his work juggling a number of notable cases in 2013, including an attack on the same-sex marriage ban, working on the NFL concussion settlement and arguing against the state's mandatory judicial retirement age.
In accepting the award, Memeger first noted how important the work of his fellow finalists was to the local community and far beyond.
"With regard to the issue of same-sex marriage, that issue really hits home for me," Memeger said.
He noted that his sister and her partner live in Virginia where same-sex marriage is not yet legal.
"It's just good to know that there are people out there fighting to ensure that they have the rights that everybody else has in our communities," Memeger said.
He also noted the importance of the voter ID issue, which for Memeger is set on the backdrop of his grandfather growing up in the Deep South.
"The right to vote is so important to ensure that each and every one of us is treated fairly under the law," Memeger said.
For Memeger, serving the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is part of a 25-year career within the Philadelphia legal community where he has moved back and forth between the public and private sectors. He said he is proud to be part of the local legal community, where he now leads an office of 125 prosecutors.
"Having the ability to really impact lives on a daily basis just can't be beat," Memeger said.
For Memeger, leading the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District comes during a unique period in the U.S. Department of Justice's history. He said U.S. attorneys, through the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, are starting to think beyond just prosecution to prevention. Memeger said prosecutors need to be focused on stopping the school-to-prison pipeline and how to best ensure successful prisoner reentry into the population.
Memeger has practiced what he preaches.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
Whether his office is going after pharmaceutical companies or mob associates, Memeger has a common method to his approach: Go after those who are targeting society's most vulnerable.
"What you see there is Zane cares deeply about the community. ... It's reflected in the prosecution and it's reflected in the community outreach," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen said. "He has said often, 'We can't arrest our way out of the problem.'"
But Memeger has not been shy about filing criminal and civil charges against high-profile entities and individuals.
His office garnered national headlines last year when it led a team of U.S. attorneys and lawyers from the DOJ to a $2.2 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson. The settlement resolved criminal and civil liability related to the illegal promotion of prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor. More than $1.6 billion of that settlement dealt with Risperdal off-label marketing alone, making it the largest such settlement over a single drug in U.S. history, the office said.
Lappen said Memeger and his team had to be very skilled at working with other U.S. Attorney's offices, the DOJ in Washington, D.C., and the numerous defense lawyers involved in the case.
"There are so many different opportunities for a case like that to go off the rails and it really takes a great leader to get a record-breaking result in that case," Lappen said.
Weeding out public corruption has been another hallmark of Memeger's tenure.
Last year brought with it the indictment of nine sitting or former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges, a court administrator and two businessmen related to an alleged ticket-fixing scheme in which those with connections to the court would allegedly get favorable treatment compared with the rest of the population.
"That is a case that doesn't get prosecuted unless the U.S. attorney is behind it," Lappen said.
Since the indictments, five of the defendants have pleaded guilty and a trial for the remaining defendants is currently under way.
Earlier this year, Memeger's office arrested 10 members of Ironworkers Local 401 for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts of extortion, arson, destruction of property and assault in order to force construction contractors to hire union ironworkers.
The office has also handled in the last year cases against mob associates, drug kingpins, corrupt police and five people who were charged with multiple crimes, including murder, related to their alleged abuse of victims with mental disabilities whom the defendants had kept locked in a basement in order to steal the victims' disability benefits.
For the past two years, the U.S. Attorney's Office has facilitated violence prevention programs in Strawberry Mansion High School after several rival high schools merged into the school.
Under Memeger's leadership, the office has also funded and assisted in the production of a reentry film titled "Pull of Gravity." The documentary looks at the challenges facing inmates after they are released from prison.
"Zane is absolutely on the cutting edge of community outreach work in the U.S. attorney community," Lappen said. "He has devoted significant resources and attention on community outreach because he recognizes that we cannot arrest our way out of the serious violent crime and other problems in our society."
Copyright 2016. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.