September 30, 2009 1:25 PM
Manatt Phelps and Roman Polanski
Posted by Zach Lowe
The Roman Polanski case is competing with tsunamis, earthquakes, and financial regulatory reform for Story of the Moment honors, with most of the focus on the outrage in Europe over the film director's belated arrest and Polanski's move to hire Washington, D.C., power player (and friend of Eric Holder) Reid Weingarten.
But it's useful to step back and remember that another Am Law 100 firm has been representing Polanski for nearly a year in a separate piece of litigation designed to get his conviction thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct. That would be Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, and the firm cannot be happy with a Los Angeles Times report this week speculating that Manatt's vigorous advocacy on Polanski's behalf may have pushed California prosecutors to move against Polanski 31 years after he fled to France.
We called Polanski's lead lawyer at Manatt, Chad Hummel, but Hummel declined to comment on the LAT's report or the case in general. A quick update on where that case stands, based on a review of court records: A state appeals court has ordered a lower court to explain why, in a May ruling, the lower court ruled it would not consider Polanski's dismissal motions unless Polanski himself appeared in the courtroom--something he obviously would not do given the outstanding warrant for his arrest.
That appeals court ruling was a major victory for Hummel, in that it raised the possibility that the appeals court might force the lower court to consider their prosecutorial misconduct arguments while Polanski remained in France. For those who need a Polanski refresher, the alleged misconduct involved ex parte communications between the lead prosecutor in the case and Polanski's trial judge, Laurence Rittenband, in which the prosecutor urged Rittenband to sentence Polanski to a brief and unappealable prison sentence as part of an obscure California program allowing sentences for diagnostic purposes. Polanski served that sentence--a 42-day stint--but fled after his release, when Rittenband indicated he would resentence Polanski until the director agreed to be deported.
The allegations of misconduct surfaced in the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. The film prompted Manatt and Polanski to file for a dismissal.
But those Manatt motions contain language the LAT claims made Los Angeles prosecutors angry. The court papers (which you can download below) mention, almost as an aside, that the Los Angeles district attorney's office "has not once sought to have [Polanski] extradited" since he fled the U.S. That claim--which L.A. authorities deny--may have spurred prosecutors to act more aggressively, the LAT claims.
Hummel declined to comment when we reached him this morning.
It has been a whirlwind year for the Manatt lawyer. He recently represented a police sergeant entangled in the infamous Anthony Pellicano case and a group of National Football League retirees who successfully sued their union for excluding them from marketing deals.
Weingarten, of Steptoe & Johnson, did not return a message seeking comment.Make a comment