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GOLDBERG CASE Panel mulls judge's ruling



Published: Sat, August 31, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Goldberg's lawyer wants the contempt findings from probate court to be overturned.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A panel of judges will decide whether Judge Timothy P. Maloney was out of line to order disbarred lawyer Richard Goldberg to be locked up for contempt of court.

A hearing was Friday in the 7th District Court of Appeals, where Goldberg's attorney, Charles Richards of Warren, argued that the contempt findings and subsequent jail terms should be overturned.

Judges John Milligan, Joseph Nehra and John McCormac said they'll make a ruling in writing at a later date. They are all retired judges from other appellate districts who were assigned to hear this case.

Goldberg, 57, formerly of Liberty Township, is serving a 57-month federal prison sentence for pocketing millions of dollars that should have gone to his former clients for lawsuit settlements. He is a former medical malpractice attorney.

Maloney's ruling

In May 2000, Judge Maloney of Mahoning County Probate Court sentenced Goldberg to an additional 21 months in the county jail, to be served immediately after his federal sentence is completed.

The judge held several hearings in probate court related to four cases in which Goldberg kept a total of $1.2 million that should have been paid to clients, and failed to account for $20,000 in attorney fees.

He said those acts constituted a fraud upon the court and were grounds for criminal contempt. Richards appealed the findings and sentence.

"I am not here to defend Mr. Goldberg's conduct," Richards said. "This man is a thief. He is in prison and he belongs there."

Richards said that despite what Goldberg did, he is still entitled to due process under the law and he didn't get it.

"That's the only reason why I am representing him," he said. "There needs to be some integrity in our system."

Richards argued that there is no proof in the records of the probate hearings that there is any money missing in any of the four cases. He accused Judge Maloney of refusing to release money to the victims from a court-ordered restitution fund.

Clashing judges?

He also said Judge Maloney clashed with Judge Dan Aaron Polster of U.S. District Court, Akron, who presided over Goldberg's federal case. Both judges seized Goldberg's assets and created a restitution fund.

Both funds involved basically the same money, both judges claimed to have control of it, and neither would back off, Richards said.

"There was a train wreck here," he said.

Assistant Prosecutor Linette Stratford said Judge Maloney was within his rights to find Goldberg in contempt because Goldberg repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to pay the victims and account for the attorney fees.

"The contempt was for willful violation of court orders," she said.

Richards complained that he was not allowed to present evidence or question witnesses during the contempt hearings. Stratford said none of that was necessary because the findings were based on Goldberg's past actions.

bjackson@vindy.com




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