Well, it hasn’t been a good week for the reputation of the legal profession.
By now, you’ve heard that the 9th Circuit ruled on Padilla v. Yoo, finding that plaintiffs do not have a cause of action against the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Yoo for injuries suffered as a result of Mr. Yoo’s “torture memos.” The Court found that Yoo was entitled to qualified immunity under Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, because regardless of the legality of plaintiff’s detention and the wisdom of Yoo’s judgments, at the time he acted the law was not “sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he [wa]s doing violated[d]” plaintiff’s rights.
In South Carolina, the state Supreme Court found that a lawyer working on the deceased singer James Brown’s estate misappropriated funds from the estate and filed tax returns without authority. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and ordered to pay the misappropriated amount back plus attorney’s fees. On appeal, he argued that his jail sentence mooted the requirement to pay fees. The Court said no way — Get up offa that thing and pay up! Cannon v. Estate of James Brown.
Finally, the 6th Circuit issued an opinion regarding two lawyers convicted of misappropriating a large chunk of their client’s settlement. In US v. Cunningham, the Court rejected the defendants’ challenge to their conviction. The settlement arose out of a mass-tort action against the manufacturer of the defective diet drug “fen-phen.” The attorneys only disbursed 23% of the $200M settlement. For this, they were disbarred, sentenced to jail time, and ordered to pay the amount back in restitution. Way to go, guys.