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Robert Plotkin

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Robert Plotkin Obituary
Robert Plotkin, a legendary figure in the Chicago legal community, died Saturday at the age of 86. Plotkin was known for incisive intellect and uncompromising principles, taking on cases others feared on behalf of citizens, retirees, workers and others and formulating them in unconventional and innovate ways. He was the lead attorney in the landmark Shakman case attacking Chicago City Hall's patronage practices that led to federal oversight of City Hall's patronage practices for decades. A founder of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, he authored the Council's first evaluation of sitting state court judges which brought national attention and effectively limited his practice in Illinois State Courts for years. Plotkin was at the forefront of the development of class action law in the 1960s and 1970s. He obtained the first appellate decision establishing the right of private citizens to sue enterprises for fraud under the federal RICO statutes. In that case he represented 400 elderly retirees in danger of losing their life care benefits (including residences and health care) for which they had invested life savings at one of the largest retirement communities of its type in the country due to fraud and mishandling of the village's funds. After 10 years of litigation, the suit resulted in a recovery of millions of dollars for the elderly plaintiffs, and the release of the mortgage on the community, securing its financial viability for years. Plotkin often referred to this as the most important case in his career. As he promised, Plotkin and his colleagues continued to visit the residents for over 15 years until the last one had passed away. In a later case, Plotkin led a ten year battle under the ERISA and RICO statutes on behalf of thousands of union factory workers at more than 45 plants across the country who had been laid off under a secret, computerized plan to keep workers from qualifying for pension benefits. In some cases, laid-off workers were within weeks or months of qualifying for the pensions. Characterized by the District Court Judge as "a complex, secret and deliberate scheme to deny its workers bargained-for pension benefits [which] raises questions of corporate morality, ethics and decency which far transcend the factual and legal issues posed by this matter," the lawsuit resulted in a recovery of $415 million for workers and families, then the largest recovery for violations of federal pension law to date. Plotkin and his beloved brother Manuel arrived in the United States as children of Russian immigrant parents and came to embody the American Dream. He was married to his college sweetheart Nancy (nee Greenberg), the great love of his life for 60 years, who passed away last year. Beloved as father, grandfather ("Bobbee"), brother in law and uncle, he is survived by his three children, Bruce Plotkin (and wife Valorie Fanger) of Geneva Switzerland, Leslie Huddleston of the Chicago area, Dr Andrew Plotkin (and wife Elea) of Denver Colorado and their children Zachary and Natalie, as well as his dear Sister-in-law Diane Plotkin of Chicago and niece Lori Plotkin Boghardt. There will be a private graveside service. Info: The Goldman Funeral Group, www.goldmanfuneralgroup.com (847) 478-1600.
Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on Dec. 4, 2014
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