Lerach, Prosecutors Clash Over Teaching Law Class As Community Service
By Channing Turner | August 9, 2010 1:27 pm

William Lerach (Getty)

UPDATED: A federal judge on Monday denied former securities attorney William Lerach’s request that he be allowed to teach a law school course as part of his community service.

“The current proposal and the community service that Lerach has performed to date [are not] what I had envisioned,” U.S. District Court Judge John Walter said according to the National Law Journal.

Original post:

Ex-securities attorney William Lerach, once known for his lucrative “strike suits” against major corporations, now hopes a court will approve his wish to teach a law school class as part of his required community service.

But whether or not a district judge allows the class, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Central District of California said Monday that only time spent on self-deprecation and warning students about his own ethical missteps should count toward service.

Lerach, a former star attorney at the firm Milberg Weiss LLP, built a reputation among Fortune 500 companies for strategically bringing class action lawsuits that forced big-time companies into pricey settlements rather than face the prospect of a more expensive jury verdict later.

But in 2007, he pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiring to obstruct justice and making false statements to federal judges about a kickback investigation involving the firm. He served two years in prison and was released in March 2010.

The ex-attorney now wants to teach a class as part of the 1000 hours of community service required by his plea agreement at the University of California Irvine Law School titled: “Regulation of Free Market Capitalism — Are We Failing.”

In court documents, Lerach said the course, to begin in January 2011,“would focus on the financial markets and public corporations, but would also touch on related regulatory failures in the anti-trust, consumer, and labor areas. The course would combine economic and political history, with legislative action and judicial decisions … [and] would include a strong ethical component.”

Lerach would receive a $3000 stipend for teaching the class but has promised to donate it back to the university, according the filing.

A probation office rejected the class, saying that the university was not a community organization like a church or soup kitchen.

Lerach now wants U.S. District Court Judge John Walter to overturn that decision and OK the college course.

“The proposed community service at UCI Law School, which will serve as a cautionary tale to other lawyers, is the very community service that the government urged probation and the court to take into consideration when assessing appropriate community service for Mr. Lerach,” wrote Michael Lipman, Lerach’s attorney, in a court filing.

U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale wrote Walter Monday to weigh in. They did not take a stand on whether or not the judge should allow Lerach to teach the class, but said if the court decides Lerach can receive community service credit, only time spent on ethics and Lerach’s missteps should count.

“The government respectfully submits that the numbers of hours of community service for which defendant receives credit should correlate directly to the number of hours that defendant devotes to lecturing the law students on the ‘mistakes that he made’ and ‘the temptations and difficult decisions they will face in the legal and financial worlds,’ and ‘caution[ing] the students to practice law ethically and within the strictures of the law, and … on the steps they might take to avoid his fate,’” prosecutors wrote.

Politico’s Under the Radar blog first reported on the dispute.


One Comment

  1. jgroner says:

    The position taken by the U.S. Attorney is indeed interesting and nuanced, and worth further exploration. See our blog posting yesterday at http://crimeinthesuites.com/in-lerach-case-an-interesting-sentencing-distinction/.

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