Judge Won’t Dismiss Phil Spector Legal Fee Dispute

A jury should decide whether imprisoned record producer Phil Spector should be refunded $1 million he paid to his former criminal defense attorney after his 2003 arrest, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey rejected a bid by Robert Shapiro’s lawyers to have Spector’s claims dismissed, saying it would be up to jurors to decide whether the fee was nonrefundable.

The producer and Shapiro, who was a member of O.J. Simpson’s defense team, have been sparring over the money for years.

Spector contends Shapiro took advantage of him while he was facing charges for shooting a woman at his mansion; Shapiro has countered that it was clear that the fee was nonrefundable.

Photo: AP Photo
Phil Spector with his attorney Robert Shapiro as he is arraigned on a murder charge in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson.

Shapiro performed the equivalent of $186,000 worth of work on the case, his attorney said, but that didn’t matter because the agreement he signed with Spector guaranteed him the $1 million.

Mackey pointedly questioned Shapiro’s attorney Tuesday, asking whether the “Wall of Sound” producer received enough of Shapiro’s services to warrant the fee.

“You think a million dollars worth of services was done here?” Mackey asked attorney Joel Klevens.

“Absolutely,” the attorney responded, noting that Shapiro secured Spector’s release on bail and that he remained free until his 2009 conviction.

Klevens also said Shapiro retained a group of experts “that no one else could have assembled.” He noted that Spector used 10 attorneys to handle his case between his arrest and his second trial, which ended with the producer being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Lana Clarkson.

Photo: AP Photo
Minus his wig and freedom somewhere in a California prison.

Renowned for his work with musicians such as The Beatles, The Righteous Brothers and The Ronettes, Spector is now serving 19 years to life in state prison. He is appealing his conviction.

His attorney, Michael Dempsey, said he would like to have his client testify if the case goes to trial in March, but said that would be difficult.

“We think he’ll pay much better to the jury than Shapiro,” Dempsey said.

Klevens faulted Spector for hiring and firing so many attorneys, and said during the hearing that the record producer might not have been convicted if he “had not been a little bit looney.”

Klevens declined to comment on Tuesday’s ruling.