In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth to which Minos, king of Crete, consigned the monstrous Minotaur to devour his enemies. Daedalus and Icarus were forced to flee after Daedalus plotted with Ariadne to help Theseus escape the monster.
Daedalus devised wings made of feathers mounted in wax, so he and his son could fly from the island, telling his son he must fly neither to low, lest the sea’s moisture render the wings useless, nor too high, lest the sun’s heat melt the wax.
Icarus, needless to say, flew tie, dying in a plunge into the sea after the wax had melted.
William S. Lerach was a legal Icarus, a San Diego class action attorney raised in an impoverished household in Pittsburgh, he specialized in shareholder litigation, recovering billions for investors in Enron, and served as a passionate advocate for his profession and for the public interest.
When Congress moved to radically restrict his profession, Lerach was outspoken, as Wikipedia notes:
While testifying in Congress in 1995 against the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America) which Congress passed by over-riding the veto of President Clinton, Lerach warned at the hearing: “In 10 or 15 years you will be holding another hearing about a debacle in the securities market that will make you remember the S&L mess with fondness.”
But Lerach may have flown to close to the sun when he took on Vice President Dick Cheney for his actions at Halliburton, and in 2007 he was arrested by the Bush administration’s Justice Department and plead guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and making false declarations under oath related to his involvement in a kickback scheme, a scheme which to esnl‘s own knowledge was commonly practice by class action lawyers.
He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Lerach suspects his prosecution was political, given that the Bush administration almost never demanded criminal convictions of crooked banksters and corporate executives, the usual targets of Lerach’s lawsuits.
Disbarred after completely his prison term, Lerach lives in La Jolla, and according to one account, is worth nearly a billion dollars.
While he no longer practices law, he remains a passionate advocate, decrying changes in the criminal justice system and law enforcement that fall most heavily on people of color. And much more.
He has a lot to say in this address given to an audience at the University of California at San Diego, and there’s nothing he says we don’t agree with.
From University of California Television:
American Law: Instrument of Progress or Weapon of Oppression? William Lerach — A Life In The Law
Former litigator William S. Lerach explores the chasm between the ideals and the reality of the American legal system, one that promises equal access and accountability but often shields the financial elite from civil liability and criminal prosecution. Drawing on his extensive experience with class action lawsuits, Lerach shows how major court decisions have skewed toward defendants over time, even when evidence confirmed their participation in illegal activity. Lerach also condemns recent judicial decisions that have spared police officers from punishment for incidents that have led to the deaths of unarmed African-Americans. This is the first in a new series from UC San Diego — “A Life in the Law: Practitioners Reflecting on Law and the Legal Process on American Life.”