In the New Yorker, Ken Auletta profiles entertainment lawyer Bertram Fields, whose name has turned up regularly in the Anthony Pellicano scandal and whom Auletta dubs the “most feared lawyer in Hollywood”. A snippet (via Lattman): “his pugnacity frightens opponents. One Fields client says, ‘If he’s on the other side, he’s a nightmare. He going to make your life miserable. Someone who actually enjoys beating people up, there’s something wrong with them. But when you hire a litigator you want a p***k.'”
“Robert Musil” marvels at the apparent untouchability of a key witness in the Anthony Pellicano wiretap case (Jun. 13) . At Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler skeptically examines a tendentious piece in Scientific American which claims that the Supreme Court’s pending decisions on two wetlands cases, Rapanos and Carabell, imperil the survival of the Florida Everglades (Jun. 13). The trial of journalist Oriana Fallaci, on charges of “insulting Islam” (see Jun. 11, 2005), has begun in an Italian courtroom; among the many giving it coverage are Dave Zincavage, Michelle Malkin and Howard M. Friedman. And Tyler Cowen expounds his opinions on the “net neutrality” issue here.
I’ve got details at Point of Law, where there is also much additional Milberg coverage.
On the other hand, the Times today continues to show admirable persistence in tracking the Anthony Pellicano scandal, even though that one (unlike Milberg’s) doesn’t have its roots in New York. (David M. Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner, “Pellicano Case Casts Harsh Light on Hollywood Entertainment Lawyers”, May 23).
Like libertarian blogger Amber Taylor, I’ve been enjoying the DVD of the show “Veronica Mars.” Kristen Bell plays a perky private eye who uses bugs and stolen medical records to solve cases. I just have to suspend my disbelief, and understand that Mars lives in a fictional world like that of Bruce Wayne where the laws that would have her sued into oblivion for her wiretapping and HIPAA violations don’t exist.
The Pellicano scandal (Apr. 3 and links therein) shows the real-world results. It’s natural that wiretapping victims are suing Pellicano and the law firms that hired him over his alleged wiretapping and bribery tactics.
But plaintiffs’ lawyers aren’t stopping with the egregious wrongdoers. For example, Craig Stevens pled guilty to taking bribes to run searches on Pellicano clients—a sign of Pellicano incompetence, since the data would be available from public databases on the Internet. (Want to know who’s in jail?) Stevens has resigned from the Beverly Hills Police Department, but the city (along with Los Angeles, who allegedly had their own bribed cops) is being sued for failure to stop their officer from being bribed. Los Angeles attorney Kevin McDermott predicts that the telephone company will also be sued for not doing enough to stop Pellicano wiretapping and, sure enough, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian has sued AT&T. In the Vanity Fair article, don’t miss the bit about how Daniel and Abner Nicherie allegedly used a blizzard of over a hundred lawsuits to protect a $40 million swindle. (Bryan Burrough and John Connolly, “Inside Hollywood’s Big Wiretap Scandal”, Vanity Fair, June 2006; Gabriel Snyder, “Names take aim at Pellicano article”, Variety, Apr. 28 (via Defamer); Greg Krikorian and Andrew Blankstein, “Filmmaker Says He Lied in FBI Probe”, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 18).
Well, this should be entertaining: “In a twist that could have many in Hollywood on edge, federal prosecutors revealed Thursday that they have taped conversations between indicted sleuth-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano and clients who hired him to dig up dirt on rivals.” (Greg Risling, AP/Macon Telegraph, Feb. 16). More: Feb. 16, Feb. 7, etc. And the San Francisco-based Recorder has much more about this week’s indictment of a prominent Hollywood attorney in the unfolding scandal (Kellie Schmitt, “Attorney Terry Christensen Indicted in Case Involving Hollywood PI Pellicano”, Feb. 17).
And very likely not the last: “A grand jury indicted prominent Hollywood attorney Terry Christensen on Wednesday for allegedly hiring investigator Anthony Pellicano to wiretap Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, the ex-wife of billionaire and former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian. Christensen is accused of paying Pellicano at least $100,000 to illegally eavesdrop on Bonder Kerkorian’s conversations with her attorney, a court mediator and others to gain a tactical advantage in a legal dispute.” Christensen’s firm, Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro of Century City, vigorously denied the allegations. (Jesse Hiestand, “Lawyer indicted in Pellicano case”, Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 16; Greg Krikorian and Andrew Blankstein, “Entertainment Lawyer Indicted in Pellicano Probe”, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 15). For our earlier coverage, see Feb. 7, etc.
Following a three-year FBI investigation (see Nov. 11, 2003), Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano pleaded not guilty to a 110-count federal indictment (PDF) unsealed Monday. “Pellicano, 61, is charged with organizing and masterminding a corrupt enterprise that allegedly wiretapped phones, entered private computers without authorization, committed wire fraud, bribery, identity theft and obstruction of justice.” Targets of his illegal snooping are said to include celebrities Sylvester Stallone and Garry Shandling and New York Times reporter Bernard Weinraub. (Andrew Blankstein and Greg Krikorian, “Pellicano Indicted on Racketeering Charges”, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 6; Roger Friedman, “Cruise, Jacko Lawyer Safe for Now”, Feb. 6; AP/Hollywood Reporter).
The FBI originally got on Pellicano’s trial following a bizarre 2002 incident in which a dead fish, a rose and a note that said “stop” were left on the car window of Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, who was working on a story about actor Steven Seagal at the time. What has sent nervous ripples through Hollywood’s legal community is that Pellicano has worked for many prominent entertainment-industry lawyers, and prosecutors are highly interested in finding out how much they knew about his alleged tactics.
Several veteran Los Angeles lawyers who specialize in defending white-collar crime suspects said they had been retained by other attorneys who are under scrutiny in the Pellicano case.
The lawyers all spoke on condition that they not be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, including the possibility that some of their clients could be indicted.
Some of them said they thought it highly likely that attorneys would be indicted in the near future.
Asked how serious the government was about indicting certain attorneys, one defense lawyer said: “Beyond serious.”
Added the lawyer: “That dead fish led to a treasure trove of stuff.”
(Greg Krikorian, Henry Weinstein and Chuck Philips, “Private Eye May Be Tried Again”, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 3). More: Defamer; Luke Ford; Robert W. Welkos, “Lawyer to Celebrities Is Subject of Inquiry”, L.A. Times, Feb. 7 (many persons whose privacy was allegedly infringed were on the other side of lawsuits from celebrity lawyer Bertram Fields, Pellicano’s most prominent lawyer-client); Kellie Schmitt and Justin Scheck, “Hollywood PI Pleads Not Guilty to Racketeering”, The Recorder, Feb. 7.
According to the New York Daily News, if Michael Jackson’s accuser sues him, it won’t be the first time he’ll be a plaintiff in a civil case. In 1998, the then eight-year-old was nabbed shoplifting with his parents in a JC Penney parking lot, resulting in a burglary charge. The confrontation turned violent, and a civil lawsuit was brought charging false arrest and battery. “As part of the settlement, charges against the family were dropped. The family collected $200,000.” (Matthew Heller et al., “Troubled past of kid & kin”, Nov. 25). A 1994 GQ article by Mary Fisher (reprinted various places on the Web) has some disturbing things to say about the parents of Jackson’s accuser of ten years ago–though the source of many of those allegations is Anthony Pellicano (see Nov. 11).
Law enforcement officials think they know why prominent private investigator Anthony Pellicano was so good at turning up dirt about targets of his investigations: they say he used illegal wiretaps. A lot of highly placed Hollywood lawyers purchased Pellicano’s investigative services, and now the FBI is asking: how much did they know about his methods? A grand jury in Los Angeles has been hearing testimony from witnesses. “‘There are many, many nervous people in town,’ said one white-collar defense lawyer familiar with parties involved in the investigation.” Yet another example of why our legal profession is so hard to cast in the role of tribunes of the right to privacy (Henry Weinstein, Greg Krikorian and James Bates, “FBI Probe Shakes Up Hollywood’s Top Lawyers”, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 8)(via TalkLeft). Plus: New York Times has more (Bernard Weinraub, “Talk of Wiretaps Rattles Hollywood”, Nov. 11) as do the New York Post (Nov. 12) and AP (Nov. 12). Update Feb. 7, 2006: Pellicano pleads not guilty in 110-count indictment.