Monday, August 20, 2007

Swivel breaksdown presidential campaign donations by industry

Campaigning for President

Which brought to mind this from the WSJ today:

Welcome to Kentucky, where this thriller is unfolding in real life. Scholars are calling it one of the biggest legal frauds in U.S. history, but it's better viewed as a case study in how hard it is to hold trial lawyers accountable for their low crimes and misdemeanors.

The facts are largely undisputed. In 2001, American Home Products reached a $200 million settlement with 440 plaintiffs for claims that they'd suffered heart damage using the fen-phen diet drug. The lawyers -- including William Gallion, Shirley Cunningham, Jr., and Melbourne Mills, Jr. -- were supposed to get one-third of the payout. Instead, the lawyers kept $106 million, put another $20 million into a charity they established, and left the plaintiffs with a mere $74 million. Plaintiffs say they were told by their lawyers that if they complained they could be sued or go to jail.

Some plaintiffs complained nonetheless, and the circus that has followed has become a black eye for Kentucky's legal establishment. In court papers, the three men denied wrongdoing, and said they deserved the extra money. They noted that the judge who'd signed off on the original settlement, Joseph F. Bamburger, had said the lawyers were due this windfall "for their services and for the incredible risks they took," as well as for various "administrative headaches."

Maybe. Then again, when Judge Bamburger retired from the bench in 2004, he was made a director of the very same charity the lawyers had established with that $20 million. The judge was paid $5,000 a month, money he later returned. He was also reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Commission of Kentucky for "misconduct in office."

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