E. Robert Wallach, whose profession as a heavyweight trial lawyer in California was overshadowed by his connection to one of many largest corruption scandals to hit Washington in the course of the Reagan administration, died on May 15 at his house in Alameda, Calif., close to Berkeley. He was 88.
His daughter Nancy Garvey confirmed the demise however didn’t specify the trigger.
Almost from the second he graduated on the prime of his legislation faculty class from the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Wallach was broadly thought of among the best private harm attorneys in California.
It wasn’t his most popular discipline: The youngster of manufacturing unit employees in New York, he had dreamed of coming into labor legislation, however there have been no jobs out there. Instead, by the Seventies he was recognized for successful headline-making verdicts, together with one in all California’s first million-dollar medical malpractice judgments.
A progressive Democrat who drove a classic Jaguar and wore Brioni fits, he embodied San Francisco’s mixture of idealism and materials success; The Los Angeles Times referred to as him “a sophisticated, liberal lawyer from this sophisticated, liberal city.”
He was recognized for his eccentricities. He most popular to spell his full title with all lowercase letters — associates referred to as him “lowercase bob” — and in 1976 he ran for the United States Senate on a platform calling for the decriminalization of marijuana. (He dropped out earlier than the first.)
So it got here as a shock to many when, within the early Eighties, he shuttered his observe and moved to Washington to turn out to be an unofficial adviser to Edwin Meese III, a detailed pal since legislation faculty who had turn out to be a counselor to President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Meese had been educating on the University of San Diego, however Mr. Wallach inspired him to enter the administration.
At a going-away lunch in San Francisco, Mr. Wallach advised a gaggle of attorneys and judges that he might be their door to the White House. To some, it was a cynical transfer to money in on his sudden proximity to energy. But Mr. Wallach insisted that he was simply attempting to assist his progressive allies throughout a conservative administration.
And, certainly, most of his work in Washington was professional bono, together with advising a small protection contractor within the South Bronx referred to as Wedtech. Mr. Wallach was drawn in by the corporate’s bootstrapping story — its founders had been working-class immigrants — and he agreed to assist it win a deal to make small engines for the Army.
Mr. Wallach wrote memos to Mr. Meese extolling Wedtech. Mr. Meese in flip pushed skeptical Army officers to seal the deal, and in 1982 Wedtech received a no-bid contract for $32 million.
Mr. Wallach wasn’t the one Washington determine working with Wedtech. It later emerged that the corporate had poured large sums into the coffers of politicians, lobbyists and former administration officers to win huge Pentagon offers, usually doctoring invoices to conceal bribes.
It labored: Wedtech quickly had $250 million in contracts. But prosecutors received wind of the corporate’s maneuverings, and in 1986 started charging firm executives and prime Washington figures with a protracted checklist of crimes.
By then Mr. Meese was President Reagan’s legal professional normal, and Mr. Wallach was on retainer with Wedtech. Along the way in which Mr. Wallach had persuaded Mr. Meese to rent a monetary adviser named W. Franklyn Chinn to deal with his nest egg in a blind belief; Mr. Chinn, because it occurred, was a member of the Wedtech board.
Wedtech went bankrupt in 1986, and the subsequent 12 months Mr. Wallach, Mr. Chinn and one other affiliate had been indicted on 18 fees, together with mail fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. authorities.
The Iran-contra affair stays the defining scandal of the late Reagan period, however the Wedtech case was equally calamitous. It led to the conviction of greater than a dozen individuals, together with Lyn Nofziger, Reagan’s former press secretary (whose conviction was overturned on enchantment).
Mr. Meese had already weathered a number of scandals, and by 1988 bipartisan stress was constructing on him to resign. Even although an unbiased counsel declined to cost him with a criminal offense, the counsel’s report castigated him for ignoring the spirit of presidency ethics legal guidelines. He lastly resigned in August 1988.
Mr. Wallach insisted that he was a sufferer, an idealistic naïf manipulated by Wedtech executives. “I have found I am such a babe in the woods,” he advised The Washington Post in 1987.
Still, he was convicted of fraud in 1989 and sentenced to six years in jail.
He appealed, and he turned one thing of a trigger célèbre amongst attorneys on each the left and the best who believed the case was politically motivated, utilizing Mr. Wallach to get at Mr. Meese and even Reagan. The conservative jurist Robert Bork organized his protection; Dennis P. Riordan, who had defended Black Panthers in California, joined the trouble.
During the enchantment, it emerged that the prosecution’s two prime witnesses had perjured themselves, and that the prosecution possible knew in regards to the perjury however stayed quiet. The case was thrown out, however the authorities launched a brand new case towards Mr. Wallach in 1991.
This time, Mr. Wallach determined to defend himself — a dangerous determination, particularly given the authorized firepower being introduced towards him by the Southern District of New York, led on the time by Rudolph Giuliani.
The case dragged on for 2 years, however Mr. Wallach prevailed. In 1993, with the jury deadlocked, the Department of Justice determined to drop it.
Mr. Wallach was legally clear however financially ruined. It had been virtually a decade since he had a daily stream of earnings, the case had drained his financial savings, and, particularly again in California, his fame was in tatters.
Undeterred, he returned to the Bay Area. He was quickly successful circumstances and rebuilding his fame; over the course of his 58-year profession, he took 283 circumstances to verdict and misplaced simply 14 of them.
He taught at a number of Bay Area legislation faculties and mentored dozens of younger attorneys, providing courtroom suggestions and impressing upon them the significance of mastering the craft of trial litigation.
“He said that every trial was a great drama dominated by the hidden truths of human nature,” Robert J. Giuffra Jr., a detailed pal who’s a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, mentioned in a telephone interview. “By most people’s accounts, Bob was considered one of the greatest trial lawyers of his generation.”
Eugene Robert Wallach was born on April 11, 1934, in Manhattan. His mother and father, Ben and Eva (Lowenstein) Wallach, had met as laborers at a hat manufacturing unit in Harlem. They divorced when Bob was 7, after which he and his mom moved to Los Angeles.
With World War II underway, Mrs. Wallach discovered a job making bomb bay doorways at a Lockheed plane manufacturing unit — she was, Mr. Wallach mentioned, a real “Rosie the Riveter.”
A highschool instructor launched him to debate, and he was adequate to win a full scholarship to the University of Colorado. He later transferred to the University of Southern California, the place he graduated in 1955. He labored all through faculty and legislation faculty; whereas at Berkeley, he labored in a cannery.
He met Mr. Meese throughout their third 12 months, the place they had been each on the mock trial staff. Though they had been political opposites, they turned shut associates. When Mr. Wallach’s spouse, Barbara, was hospitalized, the Meeses cared for the Wallachs’ three daughters; later, when the Meeses’ son died in a automobile crash whereas they had been out of city, Mr. Wallach recognized his physique.
Mr. Wallach’s marriage led to divorce. Along together with his daughter Nancy, he’s survived by two different daughters, Jamie Wallach and Bonny Wallach, and 7 grandchildren.
Mr. Wallach started his profession at Walkup & Downing, a San Francisco agency, and struck out on his personal in 1971. While in Washington, he was appointed to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy and was later, named ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
He labored as arduous after his return from Washington as he had earlier than, if not more durable. He spent a decade as senior counsel to the Sharper Image, and in 2012 and 2013, at an age when most attorneys retire, he spent 134 days in court docket, engaged on three trials. In 2016 he turned senior counsel at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver.
He by no means regretted the time he spent in Washington, however he did specific regret for encouraging Mr. Meese to be a part of the Reagan administration.
“Ed agonized over whether to go to Washington,” he advised The Washington Post. “I regret to this day whatever role I played.”