Following the disbarment and recent conviction of William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham, two (former) Kentucky lawyers, a Kentucky federal judge today held that prosecutors can seize approximately $30 million. A jury in April found that the two stole $94.6 million in settlement funds from the fen-phen litigation. This is an improvement over the potential sentences of up to 20 years in prison and paltry fines of up to $250,000.
This really shows that the system works. As lawyers, we are a self-regulating profession, and the disbarment ensures that neither will be able to hurt people like this again. The criminal system swooped in to provide for appropriate jail time, and now we have a seizure of assets. It’s terrible that good people were hurt by those they trusted—as lawyers, our job is to help people. That really gets lost in the common misperceptions of lawyers as greedy sharks (or bulldogs, pick your “fierce” animal). Sure there are some who abuse the system or are only in it for themselves, but most lawyers I know work hard for their clients, for the betterment of the legal system, and for people in pro bono activities and charitable work. Lawyers like Gallion and Cunningham do a disservice to the entire profession.