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The professor is referring to Yagman’s singular habit of insulting federal judges — deemed extremely unwise in the legal world, yet almost a hobby for Yagman.
In 1994, Yagman grabbed headlines when he publicly derided U.S. District Judge William Keller as a “drunk” and an “anti-Semite.” As a result, he was suspended from practicing law by a federal Standing Committee on Discipline. In typical Yagman style, he fought back vociferously. The committee’s decision was reversed a year later — on the grounds of free speech.
At the time, now–Assistant D.A. Frey, a.k.a. “Patterico,” worked for Keller as a law clerk. “Yagman clearly said untrue things,” says Frey. “It was part of a pattern that he would say outrageous things about conservative judges so he could get them to recuse themselves for his civil rights cases — and then get liberal judges” to oversee his cases, often against police.
Yagman was once a guest on the cable talk show Full Disclosure. On the show, he claimed, “I think there’s intellectual corruption [among judges]. I don’t think there’s corruption in the sense of judges taking bribes, at least in the federal court system. I think there are people who are intellectually corrupt, who are not intelligent enough to realize and interpret the law correctly.”
Apparently, the jurist overseeing Yagman’s criminal trial, Stephen V. Wilson, is not intellectually corrupt or stupid. Although he was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, and might be a natural enemy of Yagman’s due to his conservative credentials, Yagman and Tarlow have wisely said exactly nothing against him.
One has to wonder if Wilson is feeling a special kind of glee seeing Yagman sitting, sweating, in his courtroom as a defendant.
“Wilson is a no-nonsense judge,” says Levenson. “I don’t think he will hold anything against [Yagman]. He won’t give him any leeway either. But he isn’t going to be rooting for his conviction.”
Geragos agrees that Wilson “runs a tight ship,” and Frey, who interviewed with the judge for a law-clerk position in 1994, describes Wilson as “great.”
“He will absolutely give him a fair trial,” Frey says. “He’s definitely one of the top judges. He’s really smart, and he’s really fair.”
Yagman is smart too, and almost endlessly resourceful. He will work every angle with Tarlow to nail down his acquittal. In fact, according to one employee at Tarlow’s law offices, the high-powered attorney has been regularly staying up until 1 a.m. prepping for the case.
“If [Yagman] prevails,” says jury consultant Hennington, “he’s going to be larger than life.”
Maybe so. But if Yagman fails, it will be a very, very hard fall. There are no courtrooms in federal prison in which he can pursue his calling of challenging the legal system and its judges. There are no quote-starved journalists waiting at his elbow for another verbal bomb. There are only men with names like Cornfed and Bonecrusher — and a lot of them can’t stand lawyers.