The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Great Debates

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-09-2011, 01:51 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Should Defense Lawyers Have To Return Fees (Paid With Stolen/Embezzeled Money)?

I ask, becase the evolving Madoff Scandal seems to have hit a legal conundrum: Madoff's "early investors" profited handsomely from his scam-they made lots of money.
As we know now, these "profits" were a scam-they were essentially, monies stolen from new investors, via fraud. The courts are trying to decide if these "profits" have to be returned to the investors that Madoff stole from.
Now we have an interesting case in Boston: several people (former Speaker of the MA House, Salvatore DiMasi, a former sales rep for Cognos Corp., another associate of DiMasi) are facing trial for illegal activities concerning state contracts for software purchased from Cognos. One of the group (sales rep/lobbyist for Cognos-a Mr. Lally) just decided to plead guilty to several charges (including conspiracy)-as part of a plea bargain, he will testify against DiMasi.
This Lally paid his defense lawyer with his own funds-which included a commission paid to him on the software,which was purchased under a rigged bidding system.
Hence, the state of Massachusetts paid more than it should-the cost included kickbacks to DiMasi and his associates (including Mr. Lally).
Now, if it can be proven that this Mr. Lally paid his defense attorney with funds illegally obtained (via his criminal activities)-should the lawyer be made to return this money?
At what point does stolen/embezzled money cease to be regarded as "dirty"-that is, subject to attachment?
Suppose you have a successful drug importer (a Mr. Vito Corleone)-who makes huge money via the importation and sale of illegal drugs. One day Mr. Corleone is arrested and charged. Mr. Corleone hires a lawyer to defend him in court-and is successful in keeping Corleone out of jail (plea bargaining). If his lawyer accepts money obtained through Corleone's illegal rackets, can he be made to forfeit it?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 03-09-2011, 02:53 AM
Claverhouse Claverhouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
I know nothing of various American laws, but it is my understanding that any firm of lawyers convinced their client is guilty routinely devotes all monies paid by that client to charity.
__________________
The efficiency and success of the Italian aviators in Tripoli are noteworthy, but must not be overvalued. There were no opponents in the air.

v. Bernhardi ---- Germany and the Next War
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:17 AM
Sateryn76 Sateryn76 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
My concern is that lawyers would stop taking defense work if they knew that they may have to return their fees. Outside of big cases like this, most defense lawyers provide their services to small time criminals - and they usually need the right to counsel more than most. Since their trials are not subject to the scrutiny of the media or the review of the ACLU, there is generally much more prosecutorial misconduct, speedy plea bargains and the like.

Most of the lawyers who provide that level of service are not the big money lawyers, and if you threaten to put strings on it, they'll walk away. Not necessarily because they're greedy assholes, but because the task of tracing all funds with clients who are not the best record keepers would be a huge unpaid task, before you even get to the legal case.

Last edited by Sateryn76; 03-09-2011 at 08:18 AM.. Reason: "that there was their would" - it's still early...
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:23 AM
One And Only Wanderers One And Only Wanderers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claverhouse View Post
I know nothing of various American laws, but it is my understanding that any firm of lawyers convinced their client is guilty routinely devotes all monies paid by that client to charity.

What? Why would they do the work then? Presumably salaries still need to be paid?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:35 AM
bump bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Ultimately the lawyers didn't do anything illegal by defending their clients, so why shouldn't they get paid, regardless of where the funds came from? After all, the client's legally innocent until a verdict of guilty is rendered, so until that point, the money's likely assumed to be clean as well.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:37 AM
villa villa is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: True Blue Virginia
Posts: 7,622
Deleted for repetition...

Last edited by villa; 03-09-2011 at 08:38 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:57 AM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Pacific NW.
Posts: 4,784
The problem comes up a lot more in drug cases, where the defendant walks into your office with $20,000 cash. The IRS wants you to file a form. You think that violates your clients fifth and sixth amendment rights. As I recall, we filed a "John Doe" form with the IRS and they never pushed it. Of course, in drug cases there isn't a victim who's out the cash, so that might make a difference.

We use to make a motion to intervene in civil forfeiture cases to get seized cash (or other assets) released for our fees, arguing that our clients' right to be represented by the attorney of their choice trumped the government's right to hold on to allegedly illegal proceeds of a crime. I don't recall being too successful at that, but, on the other hand, no one ever made us hand over money we earned as fees if the client did have the cash to pay us.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 03-09-2011, 10:26 AM
fumster fumster is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 2,890
Not only lawyers, but bankers who made money off them, people who sold them cars, the kid on the corner that sold them lemonade, the Realtor that sold them a house, the telephone and cable companies, the supermarket where they bought their groceries, all of it needs to be given to charity.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 03-09-2011, 10:28 AM
fumster fumster is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 2,890
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claverhouse View Post
I know nothing of various American laws, but it is my understanding that any firm of lawyers convinced their client is guilty routinely devotes all monies paid by that client to charity.
Let me guess: you'll be here all week, please tip the waitresses.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-09-2011, 11:56 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claverhouse View Post
I know nothing of various American laws, but it is my understanding that any firm of lawyers convinced their client is guilty routinely devotes all monies paid by that client to charity.
And then they deduct these 'charitable contributions' from their taxes, so it doesn't really cost them any money. And the rest of us pay higher taxes to make up for their deductions.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:43 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.