L.A. attorney ethics beat

by Walter Olson on June 24, 2007

A jury has convicted prominent attorney Stephen Yagman, who’s prospered greatly filing police-misconduct and civil-rights lawsuits in Los Angeles, of 19 counts of attempted tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors said Yagman led a lavish lifestyle while declaring bankruptcy, hiding assets from creditors, and failing to pay payroll tax. (“Famed SoCal civil rights attorney found guilty of tax fraud”, AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, Jun. 22; Patterico, Jun. 22 and Jun. 23 (not sharing Duke lawprof Erwin Chemerinsky’s somber view of the verdict)). Last year (Jul. 5, 2006) Yagman sued a retired police detective who in a letter expressed “glee and profound satisfaction” over the lawyer’s indictment. For Yagman’s other appearances on this site, see Feb. 23, 2000, Mar. 18, 2005, Apr. 3, 2006, and Nov. 4, 2006.

Meanwhile, the city attorney of Los Angeles, Rocky Delgadillo, who’s figured in these columns a couple of times (grandstanding on Grand Theft Auto, Jan. 28 of last year; defending the city’s $2.7 million settlement of the firefighter dog food case, Nov. 22) seems to have landed in an ethical spot of bother himself (more).

{ 6 comments }

1 Supremacy Claus 06.24.07 at 9:44 am

One of the lawyers here has to explain something.

A police officer writes a letter expressing satisfaction at the lawyer’s indictment, a true event. He gets sued by a lawyer for inflicting emotional distress. How is that letter an act “so outrageous as to be beyond the bounds of civilized society,” a required element of an emotional distress claim?

Then the lawyer calls a judge an antisemite, and 100 lawyers support disrespect of the court, by their brief, signed by all of them.

Where were the 100 pro-free speech lawyers when their fellow lawyer sued to retaliate for a non-libelous police officer letter asserting a fact in the public record?

2 Walter Olson 06.24.07 at 10:54 am

I think the second Patterico post linked above provides a partial answer to your question. Although the L.A. Times misleadingly reports that the 100 lawyers (including Eugene Volokh, no First Amendment slouch) “rallied to [Yagman's] side”, the reality is that the lawyers did something different: they signed a brief backing Yagman’s position in the disciplinary proceeding. This in no way implies that the 100 were endorsing his slurs on the court; one may well consider speech to be loathsome, despicable, etc. and at the same time protected by the First Amendment.

3 Thrumbar Pathfinder 06.24.07 at 2:25 pm

So you are saying they did not support him on what he said but would defend to the death his right to say it. To bad they did not think that way with the police officer, or to put it this way “They will sue you unto death for saying a fact they do not like about them”

4 Dick 06.24.07 at 10:31 pm

I’ve followed several of Yagman’s cases and he has to be one of the lowest, sleazyest, scummyist people to ever pass the bar. I hope they throw the book at him and impose the highest penalty allowed by the law!!!

5 Amy Alkon 06.26.07 at 2:16 am

I urge LA residents to write to the mayor (mayor@lacity.org) to urge him to pressure Scum-a-dillo to resign — so we taxpayers won’t have to fund a recall.

6 ben tillman 06.26.07 at 8:54 am

“How is that letter an act ‘so outrageous as to be beyond the bounds of civilized society,’ a required element of an emotional distress claim?”

It’s worse than that. As a public figure, Yagman can’t use the tort of IIED in response to related speech. That’s the holding of a unanimous Supreme COurt in Falwell v. Flynt.

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