Jacko, Peterson Lawyer Overextended?

02/05/2004 AT 10:00 AM EST

High-profile West Coast attorney Mark Geragos, who's representing both Michael Jackson and murder suspect Scott Peterson, has possibly bitten off more than he can chew, according to a jurist overseeing one of Geragos's lesser-known cases, NBC News and the Associated Press report.

Santa Ana, Calif., Judge Frank F. Fasel told Geragos on Wednesday that a 5-year-old embezzlement case that Fasel is overseeing and the attorney is defending "is going to be way out of line on your priority list," said the judge.

In this little-known case, Geragos is representing Jeffrey Hambarian, a trash collector accused of embezzling $4 million from the city of Orange in a scheme that prosecutors say inflated city garbage rates.

In the courtroom, Geragos reassured Fasel that he will have time to handle the embezzlement case after the Peterson trial, which he believes could take up to four months. As NBC noted, cases in which the death penalty is involved take precedence over all others.

"I in no way want to diminish the importance of this case," Geragos told the judge, as quoted by AP. Outside court, Geragos added, "Most attorneys have more than one case."

Geragos, who is based in Los Angeles, is defending Peterson, 31, against capital murder charges in the death of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Jackson, 45, faces multiple charges of child molestation.

The attorney's other celebrated clients have included Robert Downey Jr., who faced legal woes over his drug use, and Winona Ryder, who was brought to trial and convicted for shoplifting nearly $6,000 in merchandise from the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store.

As for the trash collector's case, Hambarian's day in court reportedly has been delayed several times, but Geragos blamed the postponement on legal appeals that sat before higher courts for more than two years.

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