Thursday, July 06, 2006

Saved By The Bell

by Tom Bozzo

Pace Ken, the most interesting thing I've seen about Kenneth Lay's death is that it apparently voids his recent criminal conviction (via ye old Conglomerate). So say the lawprofs, if you die while an appeal of your criminal conviction is pending in the Fifth Circuit, not only your conviction but also the entire case against you is thereby voided. Never mind the probability of success on the merits of your case.

This may complicate civil suits against the K. Lay estate, which may not be able to refer to the criminal conviction, though as a practical matter it's more whether the remains of Lay's estate can afford to find 12 people who've never heard of Enron.

Meanwhile, proving that men are from Mars, and business law profs are from the Gamma Quadrant, Larry Ribstein wonders whether (hopes that?) that the death technicality will be the beginning of Kenny Boy's rehabilitation. Dream on, Larry. Dream on.
His rehabilitation will be complete when Tor publishes his non-fiction tales of Defending Honor in the face of evil Civil Servant Lawyers on shoestring budgets, with an introduction by Senator Roth.
I'm going to make an off-the-cuff law-profy comment and say: I don't think a federal rule voiding the conviction is necessarily binding on state courts. States will have their own, differing, rules regarding the finality of judgments. Some states recognize a final trial court judgment as binding unless and until it's overturned on appeal. The trick would be to try to sue Lay's estate in one of those states.
Saved by the Knell, don't you mean?
Ken: Heh, indeedy.

Oscar: An interesting question is to what extent the Feds' criminal case against lay lowers the cost of suing Lay's estate, even if plaintiffs effectively need to conduct a retrial. Of course, Lay's inability to appear in his own defense may help the estate.

Jeremy: Heh, indeedy, but I was thinking "for whom the bell tolls."
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