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Funds Talk: July 2015
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The April 2, 2001 edition of The National Law Journal includes an article entitled "Putting Defenders on the Defense" that quotes Kramer Levin partner Gary Naftalis. The article covers the debate between criminal defense lawyers who feel that they have been targeted for prosecution from the U.S. Department of Justice and prosecutors who believe that defense lawyers should not think that they are above the law.
A crackdown in 1995 in which six defense lawyers were indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy brought the issue to the forefront. The article highlights how more and more frequently, the fees that are collected are funds that have been secured from the proceeds of drug sales or other illegal activity; hence, defense lawyers have been targeted for their involvement in their clients' criminal conduct.
Situations have arisen where an attorney was prosecuted simply for collecting legal fees. Criminal defense lawyers are cautioned to question the source of their clients' funds. Lawyers who decide to represent a defense lawyer who has been targeted need to be prepared for intense scrutiny from prosecutors. Prosecutors believe that these lawyers are no different than anyone else who breaks the law.
In regard to lawyers representing lawyers, Mr. Naftalis states, "It's a difficult piece of business. The government has a lot riding on these cases...[and] will push very hard to win."