Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Phil Spector Claims Lawyer Shapiro Billed Improperly

L.A. Superior Court BC382572

Phillip Spector v. Robert L. Shapiro; Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro LLP;

Law Offices of Robert L. Shapiro PC; Does

Music producer Phil Spector is again seeking a refund of a $1 million retainer fee he paid to his first lawyer, celebrity attorney Robert Shapiro, who allegedly cheated Spector and performed little work related to the producer’s high-profile murder trial.

Spector initially retained Shapiro, a member of O.J. Simpson’s so-called “dream team” of attorneys, after his arrest in February 2003. At the time, Spector was suspected of shooting actress Lana Clarkson at his mansion in Alhambra, Calif.

Shapiro and Spector met years before the shooting incident and the two men had become friends. Spector called Shapiro after his arrest and consequently hired him. Spector was led to believe that Shapiro was a full partner in the firm Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weiland & Shapiro, and that the firm stood behind Shapiro’s work.

As part of his representation, Shapiro allegedly “cajoled” Spector into signing an engagement letter that required Spector to deposit $1.5 million, non-refundable, into an “income account.” Spector claims that at no time was he told what an “income account” means, and that Shapiro deposited the money directly into Shapiro’s personal account.

According to a lawsuit filed in superior court – the second action Spector has filed seeking the retainer fee – a “non-refundable retainer … deemed earned immediately upon receipt, regardless of the amount of time actually spent working on the case, is unconscionable.”

The suit also claims that Shapiro and Christensen Glaser did little actual work on his case and that Spector was forced to fire Shapiro because he was not adequately representing him.

“It is likely that the ‘services’ provide(d) by Shapiro actually led prosecutors to file the formal criminal charges now faced by Mr. Spector,” the complaint states.

It further claims that Shapiro’s work on behalf of Spector was “horrendous.” After 11 months of work, the file turned over to Spector was allegedly a quarter-inch thick and contained a single memorandum from Shapiro. A billing statement included in the file showed that the firm performed $95,407.50 in billable time, but Spector says even this amount is “grossly inflated.”

Despite the accusations, Shapiro and Christensen Glaser “now have the gall to claim they owe him nothing back, and they claim Mr. Spector owes them another $500,000,” the lawsuit claims.Spector dropped his first complaint against Shapiro in December 2005, with the provision that he could sue again.

Causes of action: Breach of contract; rescission for breach of contract; rescission of unlawful contract; money had and received; unjust enrichment

Filing counsel:
Michael Dempsey and Rebecca Asuan-O’Brien of Dempsey & Johnson (L.A.) – S.C. Spector (center) and Shapiro (right)