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Baton Rouge Law Firm Accuses Former Lawyer of Misappropriation, Obtains TRO

Posted May 2, 2012 10:23 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Baton Rouge law firm has obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent one of its former lawyers from settling any claims with its clients.

The firm, Crawford Lewis, alleges in a lawsuit that lawyer James “Tres” Bernhard III diverted client money to pay personal creditors, and engaged in a series of schemes involving “misappropriated or misdirected” money and tax credits, according to the Advocate and the Business Report. The firm obtained the TRO on Monday.

Bernhard was hired in an of counsel position in 2007 as an expert in tax credits, according to the Business Report. He was compensated based on work generated for the law firm.

But Bernhard instead became a liability when the firm learned of alleged wrongdoing in March, according to the allegations. Mary Olive Pierson, who represents Crawford Lewis in the suit, tells the Advocate that client losses are “in the seven figures.” The firm is trying to identify victims and make restitution where necessary, she said.

The suit says Bernhard is at an undisclosed medical facility in Dallas. His lawyers told the publications they are reviewing the allegations. Bernhard is the son of Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard, the stories say.

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