Joanne Zack, Leading Class Action Attorney, Dies

, The Legal Intelligencer


Joanne Zack, an attorney specializing in complex commercial litigation including representing authors in their copyright class action over Google's efforts to build the largest digital library in the world, was a brilliant attorney who was never boastful or conceited about her accomplishments, colleagues said in the wake of Zack's death last week.

Zack, 58, died after a fight of several years with breast cancer.

Michael J. Boni, who formed a law firm partnership with Zack in 2007, said Zack was so brilliant that other attorneys would say they felt stupid around her.

But she never set out to make anyone feel that way, Boni said.

"She spoke softly," Boni said. "There was no flourish. There was no sense of self in her work, no superlative. She didn't boast, no conceit. She was just a brilliant attorney for its own sake."

Zack would come up with simple and elegant solutions to thorny problems, leaving "everyone thinking, 'I must be so dumb that I haven't thought of that,'" Boni said.

Joseph C. Kohn of Kohn, Swift & Graf, where Zack worked for 18 years, said that "so many trial lawyers, class action lawyers, have egos that precede them by a few miles. Joanne would be the smartest attorney sitting around the room but not have to prove it. She could say one sentence at one point and solve the whole problem."

Jeffrey J. Corrigan, a partner with Spector Roseman Kodroff & Willis, said that when his firm was the lead counsel in a price-fixing case involving nine manufacturers of the oriented strand board home-building material, he picked Zack out of all the lawyers from 30 firms involved in the case to depose an expert.

The expert witness was highly respected by the plaintiffs' expert witness and the plaintiffs counsel thought the defense was the best of all of the defense experts, Corrigan said.

Zack's deposition got enough dust on the expert to bring that particular defendant to the settlement table, Corrigan said.

"In my business there are a lot of 'geniuses' and 'experts' and I put both of those terms in quotes," Corrigan said, but Zack, despite her high competence and intelligence, never acted like a know-it-all.

Boni described watching Zack in a three-and-a-half-hour oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in an antitrust case over businesses distributing roofing and siding materials in northern New Jersey.

Judge Edward R. Becker, one of the judges sitting on the panel, and Zack went toe-to-toe to dissect the record to ultimately determine if summary judgment in favor of the defendants should be reversed, Boni said.

"To hear Joanne and Judge Becker go back and forth, back and forth, citing this voluminous record," was something Boni said he never saw before and he thinks he will not see again.

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