Thursday, July 2, 2009

Psst, brother, can you spare a million or two?

U.S. District Judge David Godbey of Dallas told R. Allen Stanford that he would be glad to release millions of dollars to cover his defense fees -- if Mr. Stanford could prove that the money wasn't tainted by his alleged fraud. Mr. Stanford had requested $10 million to be placed in escrow to cover his mounting legal expenses.

Mr. Stanford's attorney, Dick DeGuerin told U.S. District Judge David Hittner of Houston that he had yet to be paid for his work on the case. Judge Hittner apparently was concerned about Mr. Stanford having no cash to hire an attorney.

Across downtown at the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center, however, not much concern is shown for those who can't afford to retain counsel. The rule of thumb is if you can get yourself bonded out, then you can certainly afford to hire an attorney. I've heard one judge tell defendants to sell their cars and pawn anything of value and then, if they can't raise enough cash to hire a lawyer, he would consider their requests for appointed counsel.

“We have not received a penny yet,” DeGuerin said Thursday. He also pointed that out to senior U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presides over the criminal cases in Houston, during a hearing earlier this week.

“I’ll remind the court that the lawyers haven’t been paid either,” DeGuerin said, after noting that the freeze left his client with “zero, zip, nothing.” Hittner said it was a serious concern that a defendant has no cash for a defense.

As to Mr. DeGuerin's concern about his fee -- that's why we collect it up front. I always consider the down payment to be my fee and anything the client pays after that to be found money.

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