Last week, I wrote about the three Kentucky lawyers who are accused of taking an extra $65 million from their Fen-Phen clients. On August 10, United States District Judge William O. Bertelsman granted the defendants’ request for a continuance of their October 15 trial, but ordered the defendants taken into custody until their new trial in January 2008. He was concerned that if the defendants remained free on bond, they were flight risks and also could conceal the monies they allegedly took from their clients. Then, on August 14, he set a hearing for August 21 regarding the defendants’ detention based on information that had just come to light.
Since then, on August 15, the defendants filed their notices of appeal with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals from the District Court’s order revoking their bond and remanding them into custody.
Also on August 15, the defendants filed emergency motions objecting to the jurisdiction of the District Court to proceed with the hearing on August 21 in light of their notices of appeal. On August 20, the Court granted the defendants’ emergency motions to the extent that it agreed that the notices of appeal may deprive the court of jurisdiction and therefore unable to hold the detention hearing on August 21. The Court canceled the hearing, but did not take any action regarding the defendants’ detention, however, so they remain in custody.
Finally, on August 20, the defendants moved to recuse Judge Bertelsman under 28 U.S.C. § 144 on the grounds that he has a “personal bias or prejudice either against him [the defendant] or in favor of any adverse party.” Here is defendant William J Gallion’s affidavit, which was submitted in support of the motion to recuse. As of today, there haven’t been any new filings.
A couple of observations. First, as I read 28 U.S.C. § 144, if the affidavit is “timely and sufficient,” then Judge Bertelsman’s recusal is mandatory: “such judge shall proceed no further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.” So it seems that the judge whose recusal is being sought determines whether the affidavit is adequate, which may not be a good position for the defendants.
Second, Judge Bertelsman’s concern for the individuals who were clients of the defendants is obvious in his order, as reflected by his discussion of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. He was troubled that the defendants’ clients have to wait on the outcome of the criminal trial in order to have their civil claims resolved.
While his concern for the interests of the individuals is laudable, it has come at the expense of the defendants’ rights. Pretrial detention serves no purpose in this case, which is what I predict the Sixth Circuit will hold. Interestingly, Gallion’s affidavit says that after Judge Bertelsman revoked the defendants’ bond and ordered them into custody, Gallion’s lawyer told the Court that in that case, they’d go to trial on October 15. But according to Gallion, Judge Bertelsman continued walking off the bench and didn’t respond.