Local Politics

Edwards legal team shuffled many times before trial

Posted April 9, 2012 4:59 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2012 6:53 p.m. EDT

— Jury selection is expected to begin next Monday for the criminal trial of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but the legal team accompanying Edwards to the federal courthouse in Greensboro will be far different from the lawyers who represented him when he was indicted last June.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator, is charged with six counts of violating federal campaign finance laws in connection with $900,000 that two wealthy donors paid to hide Edwards' mistress from the public during his 2008 run for the White House.

Eleven attorneys have represented Edwards at one time or another since his indictment, but only four will sit with him at the defense table when testimony begins on April 23.

Raleigh lawyer Wade Smith, Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney and three Washington, D.C., lawyers, David Foster, Gregory Craig and Clifford Sloan, were on Edwards' legal team at the time of his indictment.

At some point, J. Michael McGuinness from Elizabethtown was added to the team.

By the end of September, however, Foster, Craig and Sloan were removed, and Washington attorneys Abbe Lowell and Chris Man took their place.

In October, Smith and McGuinness were out. Federal prosecutors suggested that Smith could have a conflict of interest because he might be called as a witness in the case.

That same day, Claire Rauscher, who works with Cooney, joined the defense team.

Last month, Cooney and Rauscher were replaced by Alan Duncan and Allison Van Laningham, who both represented Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, in her civil lawsuit against former Edwards aide Andrew Young over items she claims were stolen from her, including a videotape purported to show Edwards and Hunter having sex.

Young is expected to be a key prosecution witness in the case, and prosecutors have granted Hunter legal immunity for any testimony she provides, as long as she's truthful.

Duncan also worked in the same law firm as U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, who is overseeing Edwards' case, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Several local attorneys said they don't think it's a big deal that a defense attorney and the judge once worked together, especially since it was so long ago.