Las Vegas personal injury attorney Glen Lerner is taking his road show to its most important venue yet: the Nevada Supreme Court.
Lerner’s attorneys want the justices to block the State Bar of Nevada from recommending discipline against him for his behavior in New Orleans.
The State Bar wants the court to uphold two Louisiana court rulings that found Lerner guilty of professional misconduct so the bar can recommend the discipline it believes he deserves.
Under one scenario, the State Bar would have to re-create the entire case already decided in Louisiana in an appellate court there.
The case involves wrongdoing by Lerner and two other Louisiana attorneys, Jon Andry and Louis Sutton, Lerner’s Tulane Law School buddies.
Lerner rushed to form a law firm with Andry after the horrendous British Petroleum oil spill of 2010 and BP’s creation of a $20 billion fund to cover damages. With Lerner as the face of Andry Lerner, they signed up more than 600 clients. Sutton went to work for the fund distribution effort and referred Casey Thonn to his friends. After the oil company alleged there were fraudulent claims, Thonn was investigated and found to be one of the frauds.
Sanctioned in Louisiana
New Orleans-based U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier recommended the three attorneys be disciplined for different acts of professional misconduct. In his opinion in February 2015, he sanctioned them, saying they couldn’t receive fees from the hundreds of clients they had signed up. Lerner said he lost millions in forfeited fees plus about $1 million in marketing expenses.
Lerner is not licensed in Louisiana. Officials there cannot discipline him. He is licensed to practice only in Nevada.
Barbier ruled that Lerner engaged in conduct involving “dishonesty, deceit and misrepresentation” and all three attorneys “caused damage to the integrity” of the distribution program. Their conduct was “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The judge was particularly incensed by circuitous payments from Andry Lerner to Lerner’s firm and ultimately to Sutton.
Briefs before the court
Nevada Supreme Court justices received briefs from both sides May 2 to decide whether to dismiss the State Bar’s complaint against Lerner, require the State Bar to re-litigate the events in New Orleans or allow it to move forward with a recommendation of discipline against Lerner.
Meanwhile, Lerner is still making money by signing up personal injury clients in Nevada and other states.
David Fischer, chair of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Hearing Panel, decided March 16 that there are “genuine issues of material fact” remaining that could cause the panel to rule on behalf of Lerner. Fischer said a full hearing is needed.
Lerner’s attorneys, Dominic Gentile and Colleen McCarty, asked that Fischer be ordered to grant their motion to dismiss, which he has the authority to do and which would end disciplinary action.
They criticized Barbier’s opinion for failing to fully explain Lerner’s misconduct and said the judge couldn’t know Lerner’s state of mind to decide whether his misconduct was “knowing.”
When Andry appealed Barbier’s order, the appellate court didn’t disbar or suspend Andry and allowed him to continue to practice law, just not in the oil spill settlement. And he had lied to the court, while Lerner didn’t lie.
It’s clear that if the disciplinary case goes to the bar, Lerner’s attorneys will be arguing for no discipline or light discipline using the “I didn’t lie to the court” defense. Nor did Sutton ever move Andry Lerner cases to the head of the line, despite Lerner’s efforts.
The State Bar’s attorneys, Stephanie Barker and Janeen Isaacson, argued two previous courts already have decided Lerner committed misconduct.
“Lerner should not be allowed to protect his Nevada license, and burden the Nevada State Bar, by virtue of his opportunistic election to stretch his Nevada license to practice in another jurisdiction where witnesses are beyond the personal jurisdiction of the Nevada tribunal,” the bar attorneys wrote.
Lately, I’ve seen ads in glossy magazines portraying a softer, gentler Lerner, talking about his charitable endeavors through Glen Lerner Gives Back. No one can say Glen Lerner doesn’t know how to market himself.
Can’t wait to see how the Nevada Supreme Court justices see his situation. Or how long it takes them to decide what path to take in a saga that started with an investigation in 2013.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays in the Nevada section. Contact her at email@example.com or 702-383-0275. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.