Attorney Andrew Ekonomou of Atlanta had been part of a small team of attorneys helping Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump, in matters about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Rebecca Breyer file photo / Courtesy of The Daily Report)
Photo: Rebecca Breyer
Photo: Rebecca Breyer

Georgia attorney to assume key role on Trump’s legal defense team

Andrew Ekonomou came under fire for charging big fees

Since earning his law degree from Emory University in 1974, Andrew Ekonomou has held a variety of prominent positions, including several years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, where he served briefly as acting U.S. attorney.

He’s also been involved in high-profile cases, including representing a co-defendant in former Georgia school Superintendent Linda Schrenko’s corruption trial, and prosecuted countless murderers. Then in 2000, Ekonomou earned a doctorate in his other passion: Medieval and Byzantine History.

Now, the 69-year-old has another job to add to his resume, and it’s a big one for a Washington D.C. outsider. Ekonomou is set to assume a larger role on President Donald Trump’s defense team in the probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I’ve been tested plenty of times,” Ekonomou told Reuters. “Just because you’re not a Beltway lawyer doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing.”

During his extensive legal career, Ekonomou has himself been involved in controversy, including allegations he and his attorney brother-in-law, Michael Lambros, made millions of dollars from money seized in gambling investigations.

Both Ekonomou and Lambros were contracted to work for several district attorneys and targeted owners and operators of businesses accused of allowing illegal gambling on coin-operated machines. The two seized assets while prosecuting the cases and paid themselves so-called “contingency fees” from those assets. Defense attorneys balked and in May 2012, state Attorney General Sam Olens issued an executive order cracking down on contingency fees.

“Our goal is to serve as good stewards of taxpayers’ money and always employ outside counsel on the most economical terms possible,” Olens said in a press release. “The Administrative Order I signed today takes the necessary steps to ensure transparency and allows the public to hold us accountable for meeting that goal.”

In July 2012, the state Court of Appeals agreed that such contingency fees violate public policy, creating a conflict of interest for district attorneys who have a financial stake in a defendant’s conviction.

Ekonomou’s compensation also came under fire in 1996 when he faced criticism for charging state taxpayers $120,000 a year for part-time work handling the Secretary of state’s Securities Division. The contract allowed him hold what is supposed to be a full-time government job while still practicing law, according to a report by Morris News Service.

Still others praised Ekonomou’s work. During President Bill Clinton’s administration, former Sen. Max Cleland recommended Ekonomou for a federal judgeship. Ekonomou later withdrew his name from consideration.

“Andy Ekonomou has been a fixture in security litigation in Georgia for years,” former U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden, a Democrat, said Wednesday. “He is regarded as a highly competent lawyer.”

Jay Sekulow, the main attorney representing Trump, told Reuters News Agency on Tuesday that after the departure of Washington attorney John Dowd from Trump’s personal legal team, Ekonomou will assume a more prominent role. Ekonomou, who said he has been working with Sekulow on the Trump investigation since June, currently works under contract as an assistant district attorney in Brunswick and also has private practice in Atlanta, The Lambros Firm.

Ekonomou did not respond to an emailed request for an interview Wednesday. A spokeswoman for The Lambros Firm said he would not be granting interviews.

He’s not the only Atlantan on the Trump defense team. According to Politico, Emory law school senior lecturer Mark Goldfeder is also playing a role.

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