FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Prominent plaintiffs lawyer Stanley Chesley, who is facing possible disbarment, has asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to consider delaying the process.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Chesley's lawyers filed a motion Friday with the state's high court.
In it, his lawyers say his disbarment shouldn't be considered until they can find out why the Kentucky Bar Association's chief disciplinary lawyer, Linda Gosnell, was fired last month, the newspaper reported.
Chesley has maintained he was not co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a controversial class action lawsuit over the diet drug fen-phen. He also has said he was not aware that other attorneys were deceiving their clients. He contends he was simply brought in to negotiate the 2001 settlement.
The bar association's Board of Governors recommended his disbarment in June. The board also has 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.
If Chesley is disbarred in Kentucky, it could mean disbarment in his home state of Ohio as well. The two states have a reciprocal agreement.
According to the Supreme Court's case information, the KBA filed a motion for permission to substitute deputy bar counsel Jane H. Herrick in place of Gosnell as counsel of record Nov. 30.
The Court granted the KBA's motion to substitute Monday.
Chesley's lawyers argue that Gosnell's firing has resulted in the "understandable inference" that she may have been fired for misconduct, the Courier-Journal reported.
The KBA refuses to say why Gosnell was terminated.
The Court already has disbarred four attorneys who worked on the settlement with American Home Products, the manufacturer of the fen-phen drug. The others included Lexington-area lawyers Shirley Cunningham, William Gallion and Melbourne Mills Jr.
The lawyers received roughly 50 percent of the $200 million settlement. Their 431 clients received the rest. Chesley, himself, collected a $20.5 million fee for negotiating the settlement.
The clients later sued the lawyers for allegedly breaching their duties by diverting most of the settlement money to themselves.
In 2009, Cunningham and Gallion were sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for their roles in stealing the settlement money. Mills was acquitted of all charges. All three have lost their law licenses.
Most recently, the Court disbarred David Helmers, who was a relatively new associate at the law firm Gallion, Baker and Bray at the time of the settlement.
The Court, while it was sympathetic to that fact, determined Helmers committed "serious ethical violations."
In October, the Court also permanently disbarred Joseph F. Bamberger, a senior status special judge who approved the settlement, calling his ethical violations "highly egregious."
"Respondent's conduct shocks the Court's conscience," Chief Justice John D. Minton wrote.
It was revealed that Bamberger, who had resigned, was paid $5,000 a month as a director of a phony charitable entity, The Kentucky Fund for Healthy Living, which was funded by the settlement and allegedly directed by the lawyers.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.