Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alternative Headline Might Be "LA District Attorney Cost UCLA $4.5 Million"

From the LA Times:

UCLA's legal fees in fatal lab fire case neared $4.5 million

After UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran walked out of court in June, his lawyers issued a news release hailing the "first-of-its-kind" deal that all but freed him from criminal liability in a 2008 lab fire that killed a staff researcher. The "deferred prosecution agreement" that allowed Harran to avoid pleading guilty or no-contest to any charge might have been a novel resolution, as his attorneys said. But it certainly didn't come cheap.

Top-tier law firms hired to defend him and the University of California against felony charges in the death of Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji charged more than 7,700 billable hours and nearly $4.5 million in fees, according to documents obtained by The Times through a California Public Records Act request.

Nearly five dozen defense attorneys, paralegals and others billed for work on the case, the records show. One attorney charged $792,000 in fees and at least four other lawyers billed more than $500,000 each — all for pretrial work.

The University of California paid the fees out of its publicly funded pocket. UCLA said in a statement Wednesday that the expense was justified.  "We defended ourselves and our faculty member as was our right and obligation, using funds in a systemwide self-insurance program," it said...

Full story at

As we have noted in prior blog postings on this matter, the case should have been left to civil court by the Los Angeles D.A.  The D.A. essentially overreached and - at considerable cost to itself and UCLA - essentially lost.  (At one point, the entire Board of Regents was also charged.)  In the midst of the case described above, the D.A. charged another UCLA faculty member in a totally unrelated and ridiculous case (which it dropped), seemingly to pressure UCLA in the case above.  UCLA is to be applauded for defending faculty members when such circumstances arise. 

We note that the LA Times does not report on the cost to the District Attorney's office of processing this case.

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