With alleged Wall Street scammer Bernard Madoff set to appear in court Tuesday to handle lawyer issues, his wife has been trying to line up her own legal counsel to help her in what at least will be a flurry of civil lawsuits -- as well as efforts by prosecutors to talk with her.
A horde of media camera crews is expected to dog Madoff Tuesday when he leaves his 64th Street apartment building in Manhattan to appear at a scheduled 3 p.m. hearing in federal court before Judge Denny Chin. Madoff is expected to sign a special waiver to solve any potential conflict of interest his lawyer, Ira Sorkin, might have.
Though Sorkin's parents had invested with Madoff, the attorney said he never had any of his own money involved.
Madoff, 70, has to sign the waiver before he can give up his right to be indicted and, as widely expected, plead guilty Thursday to charges in an information stemming from a massive Ponzi scheme.
During the weekend, Sorkin told Newsday that Ruth Madoff will be getting her own lawyer to handle any interviews she might have with federal prosecutors and defend herself against investor lawsuits. Sorkin said he never was formally retained by Ruth Madoff, but spoke on her behalf and argued in court papers that she had a right to retain $70 million of her own money.
"I think it means that the government wants to investigate her separately from Bernie and has told Sorkin that there's a potential conflict in him representing both," said one white-collar defense attorney who didn't want to be identified. "Of course, since Bernie is likely to plead, Sorkin can't continue to represent her if she wants to fight the government."
One defense attorney whose name has been circulating as possible counsel is Peter Chavkin of Manhattan, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. Chavkin declined to comment Monday.
Jerry Reisman, a Garden City attorney representing investors allegedly defrauded by Madoff, said the disgraced Wall Street trader's wife will certainly be a target of litigation.
"She will be the target of many civil suits trying to recover the $70 million in assets she claims are hers," Reisman said. "Certainly, great pay for someone who was just a bookkeeper at Madoff Securities."
In a related development Monday, an alliance of international lawyers representing Madoff investors said it will be asking major industrial nations to back the establishment of an international financial court. Such a court would provide a central forum, in addition to local courts, for the filing of claims involving abuse in the international financial markets, said Javier Cremades, an attorney from Madrid who is a member of the ad hoc alliance of lawyers that sprouted up after the Madoff scandal erupted.