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CINCINNATI - Adding further fodder to his legal downfall, Cincinnati class-action lawyer Stan Chesley has been suspended by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ordered Monday that Chesley, 77, of Indian Hill, be suspended for 40 days, during which time Chesley will be required to show cause why he should not be disbarred completely from practicing law in the United States' top court.
Chesley retired in April from practicing law in the state of Ohio after being disbarred in Kentucky in March.
Chesley was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1960 and made a name for himself with his innovative approach to litigating class-action lawsuits. His first major case was on behalf of victims of the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire.
Instead of just suing the nightclub owners, he sued the aluminum electrical wire industry, the makers of draperies and other industries that made products that Chesley argued contributed to the deaths of the 165 people who died in the fire. His strategy worked. He ultimately won $49 million in verdicts and settlements and revolutionized mass injury law.
In the decades since, Chesley won billions of dollars in such cases as suing Pan Am over the Lockerbie terrorist attack and Dow Corning over breast implants.
During a 2004 interview, Chesley estimated his firm had recovered nearly $7 billion for clients since he started doing mass tort litigation in the late 1970s.
He amassed enough personal wealth to buy a 25-room French chateau in Indian Hill in 2004. At the time, it was believed to be the most expensive single-family home ever listed in Hamilton County. (He paid $8 million.) He owned more than 20 cars at one point, including Jaguars, Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Aston Martins and Bentleys.
But Chesley's fortunes have changed dramatically in recent years.
He had been under fire over his conduct in a class-action lawsuit against the maker of the diet drug known as fen-phen. The Kentucky Supreme Court disbarred Chesley in March, saying that he took more than $7 million in fees beyond what he was entitled to in the case. Chesley argued that he didn't realize he'd been overpaid, but the court didn't believe him.
He faced disbarment in Ohio, too, a move that a lawyer for Chesley had said he planned to fight, but he decided to retire instead, resulting in the avoidance of disbarment proceedings.
Chesley resigned from the University of Cincinnati board of trustees in April as well.
His wife is Suan Dlott, who serves as chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Chesley hasn't spoken publicly since he was disbarred in Kentucky.
His lawyer told WCPO Digital in a written statement that "with Mr. Chesley's retirement from the practice of law, he will not be appearing before any courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and intends to advise the court of his prior retirement."
WCPO Digital took an in-depth look at Chesley's life and career, examining how one case dethroned the so-called "prince of torts." You can read that four-part series at http://www.wcpo.com/generic/news/local_news/Stan-Chesley-How-a-single-case-dethroned-the-Prince-of-Torts.
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