He is charged with conspiracy, racketeering, obstruction of justice and making false declarations under oath. Weiss made an initial court appearance in a brief hearing Friday afternoon before Eick, who ordered him to hand over his passport. Following the hearing, he issued a statement saying he looks forward “to clearing my name and returning to a practice to which I have devoted my professional life, one that has given access to the courts to millions of Americans who would not otherwise have been able to achieve justice.” Prosecutors allege the secret payments were made through various intermediary law firms and lawyers selected by the plaintiffs. The lawsuits resulted in $250 million in attorneys’ fees to the law firm. If convicted on all charges, Weiss faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison, prosecutors said. Other participants in the scheme have pleaded guilty, including David Bershad, a former managing partner at the New York-based Milberg Weiss and Steven Schulman, an ex-name partner at the firm, prosecutors said. Last month, another former name partner, William Lerach, agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge. He is expected to enter his plea at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 29. For the latest news and observations on crime in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, check out the Daily News’ crime blog by clicking here.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“It’s not necessary, thank you,” Weiss said. Also entering pleas of not guilty were alleged paid plaintiff Seymour Lazar — whose attorney was present on his behalf — and attorney Paul Selzer, who prosecutors claim was one of the intermediary lawyers who laundered illegal kickback payments for Lazar’s benefit. Attorneys representing the law firm itself entered a not guilty plea. The New York-based Milberg Weiss is a named defendant in a federal grand jury indictment returned last month. Weiss, Selzer and attorneys representing Lazar and the firm are due back in court later this morning for a hearing on the case. On Sept. 20, a federal grand jury indicted Weiss for allegedly conspiring to pay $11.3 million in illegal kickbacks to named plaintiffs in class action lawsuits. The founding partner of the once-powerful law firm Milberg Weiss, accused of conspiracy in a $250 million plaintiff-kickback scheme, pleaded not guilty to federal charges today in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. Melvyn Weiss, 72, is accused of participating in a scheme in which his firm’s clients were secretly paid kickbacks for serving as named plaintiffs in more than 150 class-action lawsuits over 25 years. By signing up plaintiffs quickly, the law firm was able to become lead counsel on class-action lawsuits, resulting in higher attorneys’ fees, prosecutors said. Weiss is free on a $1.5 million bond. Weiss said little during the hearing before U.S. District Magistrate Charles Eick, only confirming his name and declining to have his indictment read to him in court.