When Celebrity Doesn’t Help

How many times have we heard complaints about “celebrity justice,” where the nation’s rich and famous get away with things for which ordinary folks would ultimately be punished? Sure, celebrities probably do fare better in the legal system – primarily from their ability to sustain large legal bills – but lawyers can’t fix everything.

Case in point: a bankruptcy trustee in Los Angeles is quietly making life difficult for some celebrities who were involved in clandestine high-stakes poker games hosted in area hotels. Actors Toby Maguire (“Spider Man”) and Gabe Kaplan (“Welcome Back, Kotter”) and others were sued by the trustee to recover their winnings from a former investment adviser, Bradley Ruderman, who allegedly was using funds from a Ponzi scheme to play high-stakes poker. The celebrities won big at the tables, and after the scheme was discovered and Ruderman filed for bankruptcy, the trustee sued, recovering more than $100,000 from Maguire and Kaplan alone.

Bankruptcy trustees are lawyers whose job is to look out for the interests of the bankruptcy estate, i.e., those who are owed money by the debtor and have not been paid. In this case, the trustee is representing the interests of at least 22 investors who gave Ruderman more than $44 million that allegedly was used to fund his poker habit.  The trustee sued the celebs on the theory that their winnings really came from the pockets of Ruderman’s investors and should be returned. Oh, and gambling is illegal in California.

Bankruptcy trustees don’t become rich, famous or beloved doing what they do; they are, after all, employees of the federal government. But in a case like this, where their efforts result in repairing some of the damage from an egregious crime, these attorneys epitomize every lawyer’s obligation to seek justice.

Posted: 12/6/2011 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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About This Blog

Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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