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Attorney Fees and Government Forfeiture
By Jon May
White collar practitioners are increasingly confronting efforts by federal prosecutors to seize legal fees that the government claims are proceeds of a defendant’s unlawful conduct. Where successful, such efforts have a dramatic impact upon the defendant’s ability to mount an effective defense. In contrast to drug prosecutions (which are relatively easy to defend, though not so easy to win), business crimes are often complicated and document intensive, and the verdict at trial can turn on intangibles such as a defendant’s ambiguous conduct or the relative credibility of competing experts. Consequently, legal fees and costs can be astronomical and the time and effort needed to prepare and try these cases may be beyond the resources available to court-appointed counsel. Moreover, counsel’s efforts to secure funding for the defense can result in counsel becoming a target of a grand jury investigation into allegations that counsel violated a protective order or engaged in money laundering.
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