Pro Bono

Pro Bono for Defendant Who Earns $200K? Jones Day Says Yes

The former sheriff of Orange County is getting just about the best defense money can buy. Only he won’t have to pay much.

Megafirm Jones Day is taking Michael S. Carona as a pro bono client, defending him on charges that he sold access to his office for cash, favors and gifts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision to represent Carona without charge caused the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog to equate it to Winston & Strawn’s move to represent Illinois’ disgraced Gov. George Ryan. That reportedly cost the firm $20 million, and Ryan was convicted, to boot.

Carona, who collects an estimated $200,000 a year in retirement, makes him an unlikely pro bono legal services recipient.

“For us, that wouldn’t be a typical pro bono client,” the Times quotes Esther F. Lardent, president and chief executive of the Pro Bono Institute at Georgetown University Law Center. “When we talk about modest means, we’re typically talking about someone with significantly lower income.”

The Times chronicles a series of events it claims led to Jones Day taking Carona’s case, including a strong interest in the case by partner Brian A. Sun, a former federal prosecutor who vindicated nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee a $1.65-million settlement.

Carona won’t be getting all the work for free. He’ll be expected to pay defense costs, including investigators and expert witnesses.

“To suggest that he’s getting a free legal ride is wholly inaccurate,” Sun is quoted saying. “Mike and his family will likely expend much of their net worth defending these charges.”

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