The Kentucky Enquirer reports that the judge who approved a $200 million class action settlement in a fen-phen diet drug lawsuit for which plaintiffs' lawyers are accused of looting from the "victim" class has testified he is embarrassed by the way he handled the case.
Retired Circuit Court Judge Joseph "Jay" Bamberger was on the stand in U.S. District Court in Covington, Ky., on Wednesday in the fraud trial of three Lexington attorneys accused of keeping $45 million dollars that should have gone to plaintiffs they represented, and of putting $20 million more into a "charity" that all three, as well as the judge himself, were paid $5000 each month to administer.
Bamberger told the court he had never presided over a class action lawsuit before and depended on the advice of Cincinnati class action attorney Stan Chesley.
Lawyers Shirley Cunningham Jr., William Gallion and Melbourne Mills Jr. are being tried on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Jurors at their trial watched a videotape of a May 2001 hearing in which Bamberger approved the multimillion-dollar settlement. In the video, Bamberger seeks advice from Chesley on the proper way to proceed with the case. Chesley is heard on the tape making a self-deprecating joke about his qualifications as a class-action expert. Over the laughs that follow, Bamberger said Chesley was "taking the role" of the expert in the fen-phen litigation.
Bamberger stepped down from the bench in February 2006 to avoid being removed by Kentucky's judicial conduct commission for his actions.