Report: Chesley resigns from UC board

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 18, 2013

CINCINNATI (Legal Newsline) -- Prominent plaintiffs lawyer Stanley Chesley has resigned from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.

According to The Associated Press, the university said Wednesday night that Chesley stepped down from his position on the board.

A meeting was set for Thursday morning to consider a formal resolution on his continued service. Chesley's term was set to expire in 2018.

Last week, the trustees sent a letter to Chesley, who was disbarred in Kentucky in March, asking him to step down by 5 p.m. Monday.

The trustees, in the two-page letter, pointed to Chesley's "disregard" for the university's code of conduct. They wrote that his resignation would be "in the best interest of the University."

"Subsection (B) of the code of conduct states, 'It is vital to the University's missions of education, research and service that it maintain a reputation for integrity that includes, but is not limited to, compliance with laws and regulations and its contractual obligations. As a public institution supported by public resources, even the appearance of misconduct or impropriety can be very damaging to the university.'"

The trustees continued, "While we acknowledge your service to the University, such service cannot overcome the serious breach of your ethical obligations."

The board did not receive notification of Chesley's resignation Monday.

Chesley maintained he was not co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a controversial class action lawsuit over the diet drug fen-phen. He also said he was not aware that other attorneys were deceiving their clients. He argued he was simply brought in to negotiate the 2001 settlement.

The Kentucky Bar Association's Board of Governors recommended his disbarment in June 2011.

The board also recommended that the Cincinnati trial lawyer, known for winning billions of dollars for his clients in other mass torts, should return $7.5 million in fees he received in the settlement.

In its 38-page opinion and order entered March 21, the Kentucky Supreme Court said his ethical violations warranted permanent disbarment in the state.

Chesley, 76, was admitted to practice law in Kentucky in 1978.

In particular, the court concluded that Chesley's share of fees was "unreasonable."

"He has shown nothing to demonstrate that he expended a great deal of time and labor on the case," Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. wrote for the court.

"The issues of liability were not particularly difficult or novel, and even if they were, Respondent did not do the heavy-lifting on that aspect of the case."

However, the court declined to order restitution, saying the remedy is "not appropriate" in a case of permanent disbarment. The court also noted that the the claims are being litigated in a separate, civil litigation.

And though Chesley presented evidence "supportive of mitigation," the court said it did not make up for his unethical behavior.

"His most persuasive mitigation evidence is that he has never previously been disciplined by the KBA. He also presented several character witnesses who testified about his prominence in the Cincinnati legal community and his service to various charitable organizations," Minton wrote.

"We are aware of Respondent's reputation and we do not doubt the veracity of the witnesses that attested to his character. While, the good reputation he has enjoyed and his generosity serves to exacerbate the tragedy of his fall, they cannot atone for the serious misconduct he has committed in connection with this matter."

Chesley's disbarment in Kentucky -- which took effect immediately -- could mean disbarment in Ohio as well. The two states have a reciprocal agreement.

According to Ohio Supreme Court rules, an attorney disciplined in another state must notify the court's disciplinary counsel within 30 days.

After that, the high court "shall impose the identical or comparable discipline imposed in the other jurisdiction," barring mitigating circumstances.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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