Abramoff windfall won’t pay lawyers

The tax refund checks keep rolling in for imprisoned former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but it’s unlikely his lawyers will see much of that money. Abramoff, in prison for defrauding his American Indian lobbying clients, got a refund of $520,000 this spring and is expecting another worth as much as $200,000, his lead attorney, Abbe Lowell, said on Aug. 11. The refunds are for overpayments that Abramoff made years ago but that his accountants are just now discovering. Lowell, a partner in the Washington office of McDermott Will & Emery, told U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle that, even though the law considers attorney fees to be a “super-priority,” the priority for the moment should be providing for Abramoff’s family and paying restitution to his victims. Huvelle agreed, reserving the right to veto any distribution over $2,500 of the refund money.

Some lawyers did get a payday when the Abramoffs spent much of their first refund. McDermott received $75,000 of the more than $300,000 it’s owed. Zuckerman Spaeder, which advised Abramoff on debtor rights, received $25,000 of the $100,000 it’s owed. Lowell’s old firm, Chadbourne & Parke, is still waiting for more than $3 million. — David Ingram