A lot of unexpected things can happen during the course of a trial. Getting a new judge, however, usually isn’t one of them. But that’s what happened to Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins, who is on trial facing criminal charges that he was an accomplice to the massive fraud that destroyed brokerage firm Refco in 2005. On Monday, five weeks into the trial, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Patterson certified that he was ready to step in and replace district court Judge Leonard Sand. Sand, who was born in 1928 and has been on the bench since 1978, had recently taken ill and was unable to continue presiding over the case.

Collins was Refco’s lead outside lawyer for more than a decade and faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly helping to hide Refco’s $2.4 billion accounting fraud. Collins, represented by William Schwartz of Cooley Godward Kronish, asserts he was duped by his client. We wrote about Collins’ indictment in this 2008 American Lawyer article, and the New York Law Journal covered the opening arguments.

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