Lohan says ‘too sick’ for court, but this could be last straw

Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-29 18:04:20-05

Los Angeles (CNN) — Could the six-year saga of Lindsay Lohan’s legal trouble get any more twisted? Yes.

Lohan’s convoluted path through the legal system began with a drunken driving arrest nearly six years ago, but her struggles with drugs and alcohol have sent her to five rehab facilities for 250 days since January 2007.

A Los Angeles judge ordered the actress to appear in court on a probation violation charge and accusations that she lied to a police officer about a car crash last summer. But Lohan, 26, is staying in New York and her longtime lawyer Shawn Holley has asked the judge to release her from the case.

Instead, New York lawyer Mark Heller, who is not licensed to practice law in California, is flying to Los Angeles to represent Lohan.

Among the potential twists that could unravel in the courtroom of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner:

Judge Sautner could become angry that Lohan is not there. Heller filed a doctor’s note with the court saying she was too ill to make the cross-country flight this week. Judge Sautner has taken note of tabloid reporting of Lohan’s exploits and excesses in past hearings, advising her to “live your life in a more mature way, stop the nightclubbing and focus on your work.”

The judge could decide that illness is not an excuse, since Lohan knew she had to be in California and had the responsibility to make the trip with time to spare. A previous judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest when Lohan missed a hearing, claiming she was stuck in France because her passport was stolen.

But, unlike then, Lohan does not have Shawn Holley to arrange a bond to prevent her arrest. Heller would have to deal with it.

Heller filed a letter signed by Lohan with the court earlier this month saying she was dismissing Holley, a well-respected Los Angeles lawyer, and hiring Heller, whose reputation was marred in 1994 when the state supreme court suspended him from practicing law for five years.

California Bar rules require an out-of-state lawyer to have a licensed California lawyer sponsor him. The lawyer who is sponsoring Heller’s application to represent Lohan in California reactivated her license this month; it had been inactive for 17 years.

If Judge Sautner rejects Heller’s request to represent Lohan, she could require Holley to remain on the case. Or the sponsoring lawyer, who has little courtroom experience, could be left with the case.

Good representation and a receptive judge are important for Lohan’s freedom. She could be ordered to spend 245 days behind bars if found in violation of her probation for her shoplifting conviction. The charge of lying to a police officer could also carry jail time.

Wednesday’s hearing is to deal with issues ahead of a trial set for next month.

Lohan has appeared in court at least 20 times before four Los Angeles judges. She has been found in violation of probation five times and sentenced to a total of six months in jail. Still, she spent less than two weeks behind bars in her six trips to the Los Angeles County jail. Measures to relieve jail overcrowding led to her release after just hours in all but one of those visits. Lohan did spend 35 days confined to her Venice, California, home.

Lohan also served about 67 days of community service, mostly working at the L.A. County morgue.