The Kentucky Supreme Court has disbarred Cincinnati trial attorney Stanley Chesley, after finding that he violated the state’s rules of professional conduct when he was involved in the settlement of litigation involving the diet drug fen-phen. According to the court, he did not charge a reasonable fee, failed to provide clients with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter, divided fees among lawyers of different firms without client consent, knowingly ratified specific misconduct of other lawyers, had a conflict of interest, made a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal, and “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation following the initial distribution of client funds and concealed unethical handling of client funds by others.”
The court did not order Chesley to pay more than $7 million in restitution as recommended by the trial commissioner and board of governors, because court rules do not allow restitution orders “when a disciplinary action leads to a permanent disbarment.” According to the court, because he is now no longer a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, he is not subject to the court’s direct supervision, but his clients have instituted a civil action to recover any damages they sustained. Chesley likely faces disbarment in his home state of Ohio; it has reciprocity with Kentucky. One of several attorneys who lost their licenses to practice law after participation in the fen-phen settlement, Chesley also became known for handling high-profile class-action lawsuits, including serving as an attorney for victims of the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, the 1984 Bhopal, India, gas-leak and the 1988 terrorist bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. See Kentucky Herald-Leader, March 21, 2013.