Lindsay Lohan maybe getting a new lawyer if she signs off on a plan to have a prominent Orange County law firm help represent her on criminal charges she lied about a car crash on Pacific Coast Highway.
The latest development comes after her New York attorney was warned by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge that he did not know California law.
Paul Wallin, a partner at Wallin & Klarich, said Lohan’s attorney, Mark Heller, has asked one of the firm’s attorneys, David Wohl, to help represent the actress at trial March 18.
“We are awaiting Ms. Lohan’s approval,” Wallin said. “Mr. Heller made the request. The court and our firm want to ensure the integrity of this case.”
Wallin said the firm “isn’t doing the case for publicity. We don’t need publicity. We have plenty of cases and high-profile clients.”
He said Lohan’s father, Michael Lohan, has also been in contact with the firm but they want the actress’ approval before becoming involved. Wohl is a 24-year veteran of California courts.
Wohl is a regular legal analyst for Fox News and has worked as an investigative reporter.
Wallin acknowledged that any other attorney entering the case on Lohan’s behalf would ask for a trial delay to get up to speed on the evidence and history.
L.A. County Superior Court Judge James Dabney told the actress the last time she was in his courtroom that if she proceeded with Heller as her sole legal counsel, she would be required to sign a waiver stating he was incompetent in California law.
Until last month, Lohan was represented by Shawn Holley, among the region’s top lawyers.
Dmitry Gorin, a veteran defense attorney and former prosecutor, said such a waiver was almost unprecedented and the entire issue could be grounds for appeals on any action the court takes.
Lohan has been on probation for various drunk-driving and shoplifting charges since 2007 and accumulated what the judge described as a voluminous court file. She remains on probation for shoplifting.
During a court hearing last week without Lohan present, Dabney disregarded Heller’s request to delay the case until April and set the March 18 trial date, while repeatedly scolding the veteran New York lawyer for gaffes.
Dabney questioned the attorney’s ability to adequately defend the actress in California given he did not seem familiar with the state’s criminal law system.
“I’m somewhat concerned whether you have sufficient guidance from local counsel,” the judge told Lohan’s New York attorney after Heller filed a “bill of particulars"--a motion not used in California criminal proceedings. A local attorney who vouched for Heller has not practiced law for several years.
The judge bluntly lectured Heller for 10 minutes on how that, as well as some other motions, were incorrect procedures for a California criminal court.
Heller took the legal helm recently after representing Lohan in New York. Dabney rejected a different motion by Heller, this time to dismiss the charges, and informed the attorney he had not complied with California legal requirements. Under state law, attorneys must file motions to dismiss during the arraignment, Dabney said. That period has already passed.
Heller said he could not file a motion to dismiss at the arraignment because he was not Lohan’s attorney at the time. Heller said he was seeking to protect Lohan’s constitutional rights and was unable to determine from the charges whether his client made statements at the scene, at the hospital or to emergency responders.
But the judge said California lawyers know that such a motion regarding Miranda rights and statements is only appropriate once the case reaches trial.
Santa Monica prosecutors allege the 26-year-old actress told officers she was not driving a Porsche that rear-ended a truck June 18 as she headed to the set of “Liz & Dick.” Lohan faces one misdemeanor count each of reckless driving, providing false information to an officer and willfully resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.
Though prosecutors and Heller met this week, a settlement was not reached. To avoid trial on those charges, as well as violating her probation on a separate shoplifting conviction, Lohan will have to agree to serve at least 90 days in a locked rehabilitation facility, according to a source familiar with case.
The Los Angeles city attorney has refused to allow Lohan to receive anything less, according to a source.
This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Richard Winton.