Mark Tapscott: Somebody should give Judge John Walter a medal

Ever read something that just makes you want to stand up and shout? U.S. District Court Judge John Walter did something recently in his Los Angeles courtroom that ought to make all Americans stand up and cheer.

Walter is the judge who put class-action trial attorney Bill Lerach in federal prison in 2008 after he pleaded guilty to a felony in a plea deal with federal prosecutors as one of four Milberg-Weiss senior partners who ran an $11.8 million kickback scheme that began in 1979 and generated more than $200 million in tainted income from an estimated 150 cases.

Walters sentenced Lerach to a couple of years in the pen, plus a $250,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service. Ever the wise guy looking for an edge, Lerach dispatched his attorney earlier this month to ask the judge to let the felon teach a law school course.

The judge was not pleased. The only thing Lerach had to offer law school students was “don't get caught,” Walter said.

Not only did Walter deny Lerach's motion, according to the National Law Journal, he also pointed out that the disgraced former class-action terror just doesn't get it, saying Lerach “still denies that he did anything wrong.”

According to Walter, Lerach “misled and fooled the court into believing he had remorse at the time of his sentencing.”

Walter added that he now wishes he had not accepted Lerach's plea bargain with federal prosecutors because it was “way too lenient.” The judge pointed to recent newspaper reports of Lerach calling his difficulties “a political prosecution.”

In his motion to Walter's court, Lerach promised the proposed course on the regulation of the free market that he would have taught at the University of California Law School at Irvine would produce “better trained, more ethical lawyers.”

The Lerach motion further described the course as combining “economic and political history, with legislative action and judicial decisions. Finally, the course would include a strong ethical component.”

The course would include Lerach discussing “the mistakes that he made and would counsel students on the temptations and difficult decisions they will face in the legal and financial worlds” and he would “caution the students to practice law ethically and within the strictures of the law, and he would counsel them on the steps they might take to avoid his fate.”

Walter responded that “the current proposal and the community service that Lerach has performed to date” were not “what I had envisioned.”

Lerach has also performed community service with a nonprofit group that helps disabled military veterans with employment, the Southern California German Shepherd Rescue organization, and the La Jolla Historical Society.

The law school course proposal had also been rejected prior to Lerach's request to Walter by his probation officer.

In any event, university officials said the Lerach course had never gotten beyond the preliminary discussion stage between him and law school dean Erwin Chermerinsky.

For many years before his prosecution, Lerach was the most well-known class-action trial attorney in the country, becoming famous for filing headline-grabbing suits against Fortune 500 corporations and for often bullying defendants into multimillion-dollar settlements that enriched him and his law firm partners.

At one point in the mid-1990s, Lerach and the Milberg-Weiss firm based in New York were the lead plaintiffs attorneys in a majority of class-action securities litigation cases in the country.

Also entering plea deals with the government were senior partners Melvyn Weiss, David Bershad and Steven Schulman. When the Justice Department indicted their firm, it represented the first time the government had ever charged a law firm under the federal government's RICO criminal conspiracy statute.

The RICO statute had previously only been used to prosecute organized crime figures.

Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott's CopyDesk blog on

Bill LerachMark TapscottOp Edsop-edOpinion

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