Legal Ethics

3 Fen-Phen Lawyers Jailed Pending Trial

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Updated: Seeking a several-month delay of a criminal fraud trial for allegedly bilking clients of $64 million in diet drug litigation settlement proceeds has cost three lawyers their freedom.

Melbourne Mills, 76, William Gallion, 56, and Shirley Cunningham Jr., 52, were jailed after their bond was revoked today by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman, according to the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal. Because they still hold the contested funds, which they claimed as attorney fees in the case over the diet drug known as fen-phen, the three attorneys have a tremendous motivation to continue to delay the trial if they remain free, according to the judge, reports the Kentucky Post. He set a new trial date for Jan. 7 in the Eastern District of Kentucky case.

A related Kentucky state-court civil case is also being delayed, as its judge—who has already ordered the three attorneys to repay a total of $62 million to a reported 440 clients—waits for resolution of the criminal charges, Bertelsman noted. “In my opinion, not only these three gentlemen are on trial, the whole legal profession is on trial,” he said of the criminal case he is overseeing.

Details of the civil case are provided in an earlier post.

Since this post was originally written, the judge has granted the three lawyers a new hearing, on Aug. 21, at which they will have a chance to argue for their freedom, reports the Associated Press. The judge referred to new information that apparently prompted the hearing, but did not specify what it was.

(Updated at 12:27 p.m., central time, on Aug. 17, 2007.)

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