Famed trial lawyer Stanley Chesley has been disbarred by the Kentucky Supreme Court for his alleged role in siphoning millions from a settlement involving the diet drug fen-phen which should have gone to injured victims as reported by Brett Barrouquere for The Associated Press: "Chesley's disbarment affects only his ability to practice law in Kentucky, but it could lead to loss of his law license in Ohio too."
In its decision disbarring Chesley the court held:
The vast amount of evidence compiled and presented in this matter demonstrates convincingly that Respondent knowingly participated in a scheme to skim millions of dollars in excess attorney's fees from unknowing clients. * * * No reasonable person familiar with the evidence could doubt that he received and retained fees that he knew were improperly taken at the client's expense. No reasonable person familiar with the evidence could doubt that he purposefully attempted to avoid conversation and correspondence that would expose his knowledge of the nefarious schemes of his co-counsel.
As the dark underbelly among some quarters within the lawsuit industry gets exposed Chesley is the latest in a string of high-profile trial lawyers to lose his law license for unethical or illegal conduct.
Bill Lerach and Mel Weiss, two legal eagles who made a fortune in bringing security fraud class actions against publicly traded companies, pleaded guilty in October 2007 and April 2008, respectively, for their roles in an alleged decades-long conspiracy pursuant to which serial plaintiffs were paid kickbacks from their court-awarded attorneys' fees in the cases.
These men were officers of the court, and crusaded with self-righteous indignation against corporate wrongdoers. Their comeuppance suggests that they were motivated less by principle and more by greed.
Meanwhile, a corporate counsel trade group is challenging the apparent practice by at least some plaintiffs' firms of using temporary attorneys as profit centers in class actions as reported by Daniel Fisher for Forbes: "the American Bar Association's ethics rules prohibit unreasonable attorney fee markups and don't allow lawyers to mark up overhead, which critics say should include lawyers who work at outside temp agencies on an hourly basis."
Further reading that may be of interest: