Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009 | 2 a.m.
The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners might think Dr. Dipak Desai is competent to face legal proceedings over his role in last year’s hepatitis C scare, but Desai’s lead attorney, Richard Wright, doesn’t.
Wright swears so in the affidavit he filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. His opinion is based upon his communications with Desai in the months before and after Desai’s reported stroke in July 2008.
The board, on the other hand, based its conclusion on a neurological evaluation of Desai. Wright notes that although the board deemed Desai competent, that evaluation did find that the stroke was centered in the area of the brain that processes memory.
The lawyer goes on to say, “Desai’s cognitive skills, including his memory, speech and analytical skills, are diminished to such an extent that he cannot accurately recall or articulate facts or comprehend legal concepts and proceedings.”
That makes it impossible for Desai to “accurately testify” in Bankruptcy Court about the financial operations of his clinics, Wright says.
Wright’s partner, Margaret Stanish, adds in court papers that Desai “cannot make reasoned decisions regarding legal issues” and “cannot comprehend legal concepts or procedures to a degree that would ensure substantive fairness.”
Wright and Stanish are asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mike Nakagawa to prevent bankruptcy investigators from questioning Desai about his finances.
But even if the judge doesn’t agree that Desai is incapable of helping his attorneys adequately prepare a defense, the defense plan all along has been to avoid cooperating with investigators.
According to Wright, if Desai were healthy, Wright would have advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer their questions.
If the judge doesn’t stop the questioning, attorneys want the judge to allow them to appear on Desai’s behalf before the investigators and take the Fifth for him.
While federal, state and local authorities are still investigating the circumstances that led to the hepatitis scare, another bankruptcy case continues to have the interest of the FBI — that of Pahrump developer Hans Seibt.
Bankruptcy trustee Lenard Schwartzer filed a complaint against Seibt on July 31 seeking to prevent him from discharging tens of millions of dollars in debts. The complaint accused Seibt of running a classic Ponzi scheme to defraud his investors.
Agents grabbed more documents in the case last week from bankruptcy investigators.
Seibt, meanwhile, has turned a few heads by acting as his own lawyer in his bankruptcy proceedings.
Beginning Feb. 1, all filings for civil and criminal cases in District Court must be done electronically. That means the clerk’s office no longer will accept paper filings.
Under orders from Chief District Judge T. Arthur Ritchie Jr., the court last week began conducting training seminars on the electronic filing process for members of the legal community. And according to officials, the seminars have been well-attended.
The morning and afternoon courthouse sessions will be taking place through November and maybe into December.
The court is also preparing to open a self-help center next month, which will in part assist the public with electronic filing.
At the courthouse, they’re saying the recognition for retired prosecutor James Tufteland is well deserved.
Tufteland, the longtime chief of the Clark County district attorney’s appellate division, is this year’s recipient of the William J. Raggio Award given by the Nevada Advisory Council for Prosecuting Attorneys. Raggio, the state Senate’s minority leader, is a former Washoe County district attorney.
The award goes to a current or former prosecutor who has helped improve the administration of justice in Nevada.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, chairwoman of the Advisory Council for Prosecuting Attorneys, said Tufteland is an excellent choice for the award because of his “strong commitment to justice for all people” and his achievements as a mentor to younger prosecutors.