Disbarred Benjamin Eicholz seeks return to legal field

SAVANNAH, GA. -- A lawyer for disbarred attorney Benjamin Eichholz urged a federal judge Monday not to bar her client from employment in the legal field following completion of his federal sentence.

“The rules of supervision are not punitive,” attorney Julie Wade told U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr., adding that Eichholz is aware of state law and ethics rules governing the unauthorized practice of law.

Eichholz pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a Department of Labor investigation and subsequently was sentenced on March 29, 2010, to 21 months in federal prison followed by a three-year supervised release. He completed his prison time Nov. 19.

Eichholz surrendered his license to practice law in June 2010, which bans him from dealing as a lawyer with clients or handling legal matters.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Rafferty countered that Eichholz’s history, including a two-year suspension for misconduct in bankruptcy court, doesn’t indicate he will abide by the rules.

Rafferty said the government is concerned that Eichholz will not abide by the restrictions placed on a disbarred attorney and that probation supervision would be nearly impossible.

Moore indicated he expected to rule by Friday or Monday.

At issue is a request by federal probation officials that essentially would ban Eichholz from returning to the Eichholz Law Firm run by his son, David Eichholz, because they cannot supervise his conduct.

Wade called the new restrictions sought by probation “incredibly overbroad,” adding “I think it’s a trap. ... Undoubtedly Mr. Eichholz has a target on his back.”

According to court documents, Eichholz wants to work in a non-legal capacity at the firm where his wife and a second son also work.

But Moore told Wade that, at the time of sentencing, he “never suspected, as a sentencing judge, that ... he would intend to go back and engage in any legal capacity.”

As to Wade’s assertions that Eichholz’s conduct did not involve the practice of law, Moore said that argument was “something I can’t swallow.”

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