"Master of Disaster" Resigns from SCOTUS After State Disbarments

By William Peacock, Esq. on November 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The dominos continue to fall in the wake of famed tort law pioneer and "Master of Disaster" Stanley Chesley's career-ending unreasonable fee scandal. Months after being disbarred in Kentucky, and resigning from the Ohio state bar, Chesley voluntarily resigned from the United States Supreme Court's rolls.

It all started with a fee paid out in mass class action Fen-Phen litigation. Chesley walked away with $20 million of a $200 million settlement. His fellow attorneys were convicted of criminal charges for bilking even more. In the end, the 440 members of the class received only $74 million, instead of the $135 million due.

Kentucky Disbarment

Back in March, the Kentucky Supreme Court permanently disbarred Chesley for accepting an "unreasonable" fee. The court called the fee unreasonable, "especially in light of his professed ignorance and lack of responsibility for any aspect of the litigation except showing up at the mediation and going through the motions of announcing the agreement." There was also a contingency agreement limiting his fee to $14 million, based on 21 percent of one-third of the $200 million recovery.

Ohio Resignation

Ohio was a foregone conclusion after the Kentucky Supreme Court decision. As we previously noted, no Ohio lawyer has ever kept his license after being disbarred in another state. The disbarment process is pretty much automatic.

But Chesley wasn't disbarred. Shortly before the deadline for notifying the Ohio Supreme Court of the Kentucky disbarment, he voluntarily and irrevocably retired from the bar in a sworn affidavit signed by his wife, U.S. District Court Judge Susan J. Dlott, reports WLWT Cincinnati.

What's the difference? Nothing really, except he saved himself from a few months of unnecessary proceedings.

Supreme Court Suspension, Resignation

Every week, on the Supreme Court's orders list, there are a handful of lawyers who are suspended or disbarred from the Court's rolls, typically because of related state proceedings. Chesley's name popped up back in June, giving him 40 days to plead his case. Instead, much like in Ohio, he chose to resign voluntarily, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

As a result, he'll no longer be able to practice law in front of the court. On the bright side, that $20 million should keep him comfortable for at least a few years.

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