TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Thursday, November 16, 2006

OJ & Royalties & Civil Judgments

This morning, I read this USA Today story (hey, I'm in a hotel) about the execrable forthcoming OJ Simpson book If I Did It, and noticed this:

Simpson has failed to pay the $33.5 million judgment against him in the civil case. His NFL pension and his Florida home cannot legally be seized. He and the families of the victims have wrangled over the money in court for years.

The victim' families could go after the proceeds from the book's sales to pay off the judgment. But one legal analyst said there are ways to get around that requirement — like having proceeds not go directly to Simpson.

"Clever lawyering can get you a long way," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University law school professor and former federal prosecutor who has followed the case closely.

Levenson noted that the criminal justice system's protection against double jeopardy means Simpson's book, explosive as it may be, should not expose him to any new legal danger. She added that Simpson could create an extra layer of insulation from any legal worries by presenting the story hypothetically.

"He can write pretty much whatever he wants," Levenson said. "Unless he's confessing to killing somebody else, he can probably do this with impunity."

Now, the double jeopardy discussion is, I think, noncontroversial.  But if the royalties are even going to support him in any way, I would think it unlikely that they'd really be beyond the reach of the plaintiffs -- who obviously have a substantial incentive to go after them.  I would imagine most judges would share the repulsion that I, and it seems most everyone, feel.

But maybe I'm missing something.  Is there some way that Simpson could structure the royalty payments such that they'd help him but be beyond the reach of the civil plaintiffs?  I suppose maybe he could go on a book tour paid for by Reganbooks, but it's hard to imagine that would be worth it to him.

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