QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK – Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Michael G., Phoenix, AZ:

I read on Court TV’s website that Phil Spector is suing his first criminal lawyer, Robert Shapiro, seeking a return of more than $1 million that he paid to Shapiro during Shapiro’s representation of him relating to the murder of Lana Clarkson. Does Phil have a chance of getting a return of fees paid to Shapiro?

The Lawyer of Love:

Phil must have a lucky rabbit’s foot stuck in that coiffed hairdo. Not only was there a mistrial in his murder case and the untimely death of one of the key prosecution witnesses, but a judge recently ruled that he may pursue his fee dispute action against Robert Shapiro.

On February 3, 2003, music producer Phil Spector was arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of actress Lana Clarkson was found at his mansion. On November 20, 2003, he was indicted and in September of 2004, he was ordered to stand trial. Five years after his arrest in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, Spector is still attempting to pursue a refund of the $1 million retainer he paid to Robert Shapiro. This is the second time that Spector sued Shapiro. In the suit, Spector claims that Shapiro “cheated him and used their personal relationship to enrich himself unjustly,” according to ABC News. “Spector alleges that Shapiro’s work on the case was inadequate and may have led prosecutors to file formal charges against Spector.”

Apparently now that Spector is a “free” man due to a hung jury in the murder case, he decided he could not get enough of the legal system, so he decided to sue his pal. What is clear is that Spector lost his sense of gratitude during the trial process. Maybe the fact that Spector’s parents were first cousins — which he revealed last year to London’s Daily Telegraph — can explain his bizarre conduct.

Spector seems to forget that he fired Shapiro one year after the initial arrest. Were it not for Bobby, Spector would not have been released on $1 million bail and allowed to remain free for four years after his arrest. Spector also alleges that he was under an extreme amount of stress when he signed the engagement letter with Shapiro. No shit, Sherlock. Unlike Lana Clarkson, no one put a gun to Spector’s head and told him to hire Bobby. Spector best be prepared to show the judge an indicted defendant who hires a criminal lawyer just for the fun of it. Better yet, maybe Spector can team up with O.J. Simpson to show how calm and collected he was after his Bronco chase.

The key to recovery of fees, if any, for Spector depends on the language of Bobby Shapiro’s contract and the conduct of Shapiro. Although the term “retainer” is often casually tossed about, it may have different meanings, especially in California. There are different types of retainers but a “true retainer” is consideration paid to a lawyer to “be there” for the client for any given period of time. True retainers are earned upon receipt and must not be placed in a lawyer’s client trust account. True retainers are commonly used by criminal defense lawyers. However, the label used on the retainer in the agreement is not always controlling, because the purpose of the payment and conduct of the lawyer is also important. A retainer that merely represents an advance payment or security deposit for actual services to be performed in the future is not a “true retainer.” That type of retainer is refundable unless fully earned. So if Shapiro billed against the retainer, in order to succeed against Spector, he must produce billing records to show that he reasonably performed services and incurred costs to the tune of $1 million.

It is fairly clear that the prosecution is planning to retry Spector for the murder of Lana Clarkson. If Shapiro strategically plays his delay card correctly, the chance of Shapiro refunding fees is as about the same as Spector going to jail.

Eric G., Miami Beach, FL:

I just read an article that Ashley Dupre, Spitzer’s escort, is suing Girls Gone Wild for $10 million, claiming he exploited her image and name to advertise the racy videos. She said that she was only 17, too young to sign legally binding contracts and drunk on spring break in 2003. How can she sue now and do you think she has a chance?

The Lawyer of Love:

Guess if you can no longer fuck the Governor out of easy money and your music career hits a plateau, you need to find the next best opportunity: Sue Joe Francis. If anyone previously thought Dupre was a victim of circumstance, Dupre’s latest stunt shows her true colors and eradicates all uncertainty.

Hell hath no fury like a hooker scorned. Ashley Dupre filed suit in Florida Federal Court against Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis for $10 million alleging that he exploited her name and image for a profit. Ashley claims that GGW approached her while she was vacationing in Florida in 2003, gave her alcohol and coaxed her into exposing her breasts for the cameras when she was only 17 years old. While having an apparent brain fart, Joe Francis originally contacted Dupre and offered her $1 million to appear in a non-nude spread for GGW‘s new magazine. Later, Francis found archived footage of Dupre, which was filmed in 2003, and retracted his original offer.

This case boils down to whether Francis could legally release the video coverage of Dupre because she was only 17 years old. Ashley claims she did not legally consent nor was she old enough to execute a contract to consent to the photos and video. Francis maintains that because there is no sexual content, he can release the footage. Apparently, there may be a basis to Francis’s argument. Because there is toplessness in the video but no “sexual conduct” as defined by Florida law, Francis contends that the Federal Case of Lane v. MRA Holdings supports his position. Lane stands for the premise that a 17-year-old girl who is not compensated but allows herself to be videotaped exposing her breasts in a public is not legally incapable of the authorization and consent to publication of her likeness and image in videos.

Actually, it is Dupre’s credibility that may be more problematic. Dupre is going to have a hard time explaining how she was cajoled to drink alcohol and bare her breasts for GGW for a period of seven days! Did the GGW tie her down and intravenously inject alcohol into her arms and release her only for the purposes of dancing topless? Then there’s the fact that Dupre was videotaped giving them a full consent and a fake identification claiming she was in her twenties and identifying herself as “Amber Arpaio.”

Dupre better hope for a quick settlement, since her case has as much chance of success as ex-Governor Spitzer does of re-election.

Ashley M., Lebanon, VA:

My fiancé was married when we first got together. We have two kids together now, a two-year-old and a three-month-old. He still isn’t divorced. He’s been legally separated for a little over a year. He has always been a sexaholic. Although he’s never cheated on me, he went out to eat with a bunch of his friends, and they seem to always run into this chick that follows them around. She’s a whore. She offered my man, who is in college taking engineering, a blow job for some of his drawings so that she could pass that class. He told her he couldn’t do that because he was taken. When I confronted her about it, he got angry. Does he have a thing for her, or will he cheat?

The Lawyer of Love:

Let me get this straight. You want to know if your sexaholic boyfriend who is still married, cheated on his wife with you, had children with you while he is still married, is having sex with a woman who offers him sex for drawings? Gee, I cannot imagine why you would ever doubt his word. Is he cheating and will he cheat? Yes, he already is on his wife and you. Does he have a thing for the whore? No, that would be giving him too much credit. He is using the whore for sex because he is a narcissistic ass who only cares about his own needs and addiction. You probably do not have to worry about a wedding, because he has no intentions of divorcing his wife and marrying you. Do yourself a favor and find a reputable therapist to assist you and your children with the transition of moving on and getting healthy. You may also want to search for a family law lawyer to assist you with the pursuit of custody, child support and child-related issues.

Toni C., San Diego, CA:

I have been dating this great guy for about three months. He is smart, funny, witty, super-sexy and we get along great. I am 35 and he is 54. I want my friends and my guy to enjoy hanging out together, but my friends are all pretty opposed to the relationship due to the age difference. I say that age does not matter if I am happy and he treats me like a princess, but they just keep seeing his age as a number. What do you think I should do?

The Lawyer of Love:

Get new friends. Age is a state of mind and irrelevant. If he is kind and possesses all the important qualities you respect in a potential partner, then pursue the relationship. Three months is not sufficient time to truly determine if you found your soul mate, so just have fun and see what happens. If your friends are not happy for you as they should be, then they do not have your best interests at heart and never will.

Patty V., New Orleans, LA:

My guy has suggested that he would love to see me with another girl. He does not want to participate, just watch while I eat the girl out. I’m a little uncertain about doing this, even though I think it would be very hot for my boyfriend to “teach” me how to give great head — and he is fabulous at it! I said I would submit the question to you and get your opinion. We both love your column. What do you think? Should I take the pussy plunge?

The Lawyer of Love:

Absolutely! Sexual adventure heightens any relationship. Every straight man has a fantasy of seeing girl-on-girl sex. Start slow by asking your boyfriend to show you how to eat pussy and to demonstrate on you. Talk to him while you are having hot sex and explain to him exactly what you will do to the other girl and what she will do to you while he watches. Then, to build the momentum even more, send him text messages and e-mails in more detail about your sexual escapades with the new girl. By the time you actually take the “pussy plunge,” you will be so charged up that you will not even notice you are actually munching on her. Plus, you never know, it may start a whole new trend for you. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Lawyer of Love on Playboy