In the popular television series Breaking Bad, there’s a famous scene between the characters Jesse Pinkman and Walter White, when the former quips, “When the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer. You want a ‘criminal’ lawyer.”
And thus the show introduced the character of Saul Goodman, one of the most delightfully colorful and brazenly corrupt lawyers to grace the small screen in recent memory. Although Saul Goodman is a fictional character, there have been plenty of lawyers out there in the real world who haven’t met the highest marks in ethics – and some others who have secretly dabbled into criminal activities themselves. And when they get caught, the scandals are memorable.
Here’s a look at some of the most infamously scandalous lawyers in the real world:
While there’s no doubt that Michael Avenatti did put up a good show in the early part of his legal career, his downfall was swift and humiliating. Most well known for his highly public battles with President Donald Trump while representing his former mistress, the porn star Stormy Daniels, Avenatti at one point even toyed with the idea of running for higher office. The only problem? He was caught scamming and extorting his own clients. After a two-week trial, he plead guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, admitting to stealing roughly $300,000 in book sales earned by Daniels. Avenatti, 51, had already been serving a 2-1/2-year sentence stemming from his 2020 conviction for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc. Sometimes, round one isn’t enough for a lesson.
Paul W. Bergrin
If “No witness, no case,” was a lawyer, it’d be Paul W. Bergrin. A formerly well-known defence lawyer and federal prosecutor, who was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murder, drug trafficking, racketeering, and other offences before a federal judge in Newark. Bergrin, who represented famous rappers and celebrities, was charged and convicted of directing the shooting death of Kemo Deshawn McCray, who was a key witness against his client, William Baskerville. Investigators also say Bergrin wanted McCray silenced to conceal his own involvement in a violent drug operation in Newark and Irvington. He was willing to fight fire with fire & rightfully got burnt.
Marc J. Goldstein
More on the white collar crime spectrum of this list of scandals, the New York arbitration lawyer Marc J. Goldstein represents a familiar story – a distinguished legal practitioner who found himself in serious financial distress until along came an opportunity of a lifetime. According to a whistleblower disclosure, Marc J. Goldstein allegedly accepted a bribe of $250,000.00 from the investment bank Goldman Sachs, presumably as a payment to rig an arbitral award in their interests. Commercial corruption doesn’t get more plain and simple than this, but to date, Goldstein still hasn’t faced charges and hasn’t yet had his license revoked by the American Arbitration Association – time will tell if these scandals catch up with him!
Mark Jones, who once used to sit in the office as district attorney is now enjoying his views on the other side of the law. He was charged with nine offences by a jury which includes two counts of oath-related violations by public officials, two counts of oath-related attempts, two counts of bribery, two counts of witness-swaying, and one count of attempted subornation of perjury, but who’s counting right? “By abusing his power and abdicating his responsibility as district attorney, Mark Jones did a disservice to those he was elected to protect and put our very justice system at risk,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a news release.
Howard Kevin Stern
Howard Kevin Stern who was an American attorney based in California was the domestic partner, attorney and agent of the late celebrity model, Anna Nicole Smith. She died in February 2007 in a Hollywood, Florida hotel room as a result of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Howard found himself in the headlines amid charges that he used fake names to obtain prescription medication for Anna Nicole. At the time, Stern claimed he used phony names for prescriptions in order to protect Anna’ Nicole’s privacy. He was accused of using fictitious names to get prescription drugs for Anna Nicole, which landed him in the news. At the time, Stern asserted that he protected Anna Nicole’s privacy by writing prescriptions under false identities. There is one thing that can be said with utter certainty, this is not what they mean when they say always get the job done.
Next on the list is Marc Dreier. They say that a lawyer needs to be great at his job but we think Marc never got the memo. Dreier started to borrow money from hedge funds to pay for his extravagant lifestyle as well as the expansion by issuing fictitious bonds from the company Solow Realty, which is owned by one of his clients, Sheldon Solow. Dreier created a phoney balance sheet and offered interest rates that were somewhat higher than the market rate in order to make the deception seem credible. At first, Dreier believed that the loans would be repaid through the firm’s revenues, but as the growth cost more than anticipated and as he developed a taste for the high life, his business started to resemble a classic Ponzi scheme. A $400 million Ponzi scheme by the way. Even a poor joke has a better ending than his career. Moving on!
Samuel B. Kent
His somewhat non-classy conduct had been the subject of gossip for years. Following allegations of sexual abuse, Samuel B. Kent resigned from his position as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 2009. Kent entered a guilty plea to impeding justice as well as to misleading a jury about related events. Kent was given a 33-month federal jail term after admitting to assaulting the two ladies. For a Federal Judge, Samuel certainly did not know his law, that much cannot be disputed. He went on to become the first federal judge to go to prison since 1991.
These are just some of America’s most famously unethical lawyers – let us know who we should add to the list!