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Lerach Wants to Teach Law School Ethics Class During Home Confinement

Posted Feb 11, 2008 8:06 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: Former Milberg Weiss lawyer Willliam Lerach will be sentenced today for paying kickbacks to investors to serve as lead plaintiffs in securities class actions. His lawyer is seeking a one-year sentence, with half to be served at home while he teaches law school classes—including an ethics class—by teleconference.

Lerach would be teaching the long-distance classes for the University of Pittsburgh law school, his alma mater, according to a sentencing brief (PDF) filed Friday, Reuters reports. Lerach’s lawyers had fought to seal the sentencing documents, and large portions were blacked out in the Pacer filing.

The brief says Lerach would help teach classes in ethics, civil procedure, corporations, securities and remedies, without compensation or expense reimbursement. It cites this letter from Dean Mary Crossley to explain why Lerach would be teaching ethics:

“Despite his serious transgressions—indeed, at least in part because of them—I believe he could productively spend his time and talents teaching our students about the need always to practice ethically and within the strictures of the law, the pitfalls attorneys face when they breach high ethical standards, and the steps they might take to avoid his fate. Members of our legal ethics faculty view the proposed involvement of Mr. Lerach as offering a unique and powerful educational opportunity for our students.”

Among those who wrote letters of support for Lerach were consumer crusader Ralph Nader, commentator Ben Stein and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge John Walter to sentence Lerach to two years in prison.

One letter that was not properly redacted suggested that the practice of paying lead plaintiffs was widespread, the New York Sun reports. The letter, which was supposed to have been filed under seal, recounted conversations Lerach had with his children, in which he says: “Everybody was paying plaintiffs so they could bring their cases. I thought I had to do it, too.”

Lerach pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to obstruct justice and make false testimony.

Updated at 7:30 a.m. to include sentencing brief and additional information on Lerach's teaching request. Updated at 10:35 a.m. to include information from New York Sun article.

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