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Incensed Judge Rejects Lerach's Request to Work Off Community Service by TeachingWalter says he regrets accepting disgraced attorney's plea deal, thinks sentence was 'way too lenient'
An incensed federal judge on Monday rejected disgraced plaintiffs' attorney William Lerach's request to complete some of his community service by teaching a course at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. U.S. District Judge John Walter in Los Angeles devoted several minutes during a hearing reciting public statements in which Lerach appeared to display a lack of remorse for his crime. As a result, Walter said, the only message Lerach could offer students was this: "Don't get caught."
The National Law Journal2010-08-10 12:00:00 AM
An incensed federal judge on Monday rejected disgraced plaintiffs' attorney William Lerach's request to complete some of his community service by teaching a course at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
U.S. District Judge John Walter in Los Angeles devoted several minutes during a hearing reciting public statements in which Lerach appeared to display a lack of remorse for his crime. As a result, Walter said, the only message Lerach could offer students was this: "Don't get caught."
Walter oversaw the criminal case that federal prosecutors brought against Lerach's former law firm, now called Milberg LLP, and several former partners involving kickbacks to lead plaintiffs. Lerach pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Walter sentenced him to two years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service. Lerach completed his prison sentence earlier this year, paid his fine and another $7.75 million in forfeiture, and is in the process of finishing his community service.
Monday's hearing started off badly for Lerach, who didn't attend.
"Where's Mr. Lerach?" Walter asked.
When Lerach's lawyer, Michael Lipman, a partner at San Diego's Coughlan, Semmer & Lipman, replied that his client was in San Diego, Walter replied: "That doesn't say much for his motion."
Walter then cited several recent newspaper articles in which Lerach appeared to indicate that he wouldn't have done anything differently, despite having served a prison sentence, and that the case was simply a "political prosecution."
Lerach "still denies that he did anything wrong," Walter said. "He misled and fooled the court into believing he had remorse at the time of his sentencing." Walter said that he now believes the sentence was "way too lenient" and regretted having accepted Lerach's plea deal.
Lerach sought credit for designing and teaching a proposed course at the law school called "Regulation of Free Market Capitalism — Are We Failing," which would begin in January 2011. In a July 19 motion, Lerach said that he "would caution students to practice law ethically and within the strictures of the law, and he would counsel them on the steps they might take to avoid his fate."
He said he had been consulting with UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky since February regarding the course and would not get paid.
Lerach's probation officer denied his request because the law school is not considered a charitable nonprofit institution, such as a "church, a soup kitchen or Goodwill," according to Lerach's motion. The probation officer deferred to Walter to make the final decision.
Federal prosecutors had taken no position on the request, asking only that Lerach, if permitted to teach the course, should earn community service credit only for time spent talking about his mistakes.
Walter questioned the 600 hours of community service that Lerach already has completed. Lerach spent time at the Elite Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business Network, a nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitated veterans find jobs; Southern California German Shepherd Rescue; and the La Jolla Historical Society.
He said his intention was to place Lerach outside the comfort of his own world, and that it appeared that Lerach's latest request was more an "afterthought" than a bona fide effort to comply with that purpose.
"The current proposal and the community service that Lerach has performed to date," he said, is not "what I had envisioned."
Littman had no comment following the hearing.
Rex Bossert, a spokesman for law school, said the class was never a done deal and there are no plans to proceed with it.
"At one point, there was some discussion between Bill and the dean about a class, but it never came to fruition," he said. "It was just in the preliminary stages."