Defending Attorneys Against Extortion Charges Presents Unique Challenges

Business Crimes Bulletin
7 minute read | December.02.2020

Although the criminal prosecution of lawyer misconduct is nothing new, the recent indictment of a plaintiffs' lawyer in Maryland and sentencing of two plaintiffs' lawyers in Virginia illustrate the particular danger to attorneys who arguably cross the line during negotiations with potential litigation counterparties. They also vividly illustrate the hurdles unique to defending lawyers accused of attempting to extort counterparties for their own financial gain.

Federal extortion statutes

The crime of extortion — forcing payment in response to a specific threat — is normally associated in popular culture with Tony Sopranolike figures. In those cases, the U.S. government typically uses acts of extortion as predicate offenses in an organized crime prosecution under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Originally published in Business Crimes Bulletin; reprinted with permission.