Young denies attorney $1,600 retainer fee in Venezia wrongful death suit

Amelia Flood Jan. 20, 2010, 9:28am



St. Louis attorney James Schottel Jr. will have to return a $1,600 fee if he wants to end his representation of a couple who sued over their daughter's murder.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young denied Schottel's plea to overturn a previous order Young entered requiring he return the money after his withdrawal from the case during a telephone conference Wednesday.

Schottel's former clients, Michael and Cynthia Anderson, filed a wrongful death suit against the estate of Thomas Venezia and Robert Staack.

Venezia, a convicted racketeer, was found dead along with the Andersons' daughter, Jennifer Anderson, in the home the two shared in Belleville.

The police ruled the deaths a murder-suicide and that Venezia killed Jennifer Anderson.

The Andersons allege that Staack is guilty of negligent entrustment for giving Venezia the gun used in the shootings when he was allegedly ill and depressed.

Neither defendant has been served in the case to date.

Schottel, who withdrew from the case in December, cited staffing issues and his wheel chair-bound status. At that hearing, the Andersons expressed their frustration to Young over Schottel's handling of the case and absences from court dates.

After hearing all sides at the December hearing, Young allowed the withdrawal on the condition that Schottel return the money the Andersons already paid him.

Schottel and co-counsel William Berry had previously pointed fingers at one another for the lack of progress in the case. Both have missed hearings in the case and neither was present last week at the Jan. 12 hearing when Young ordered them to appear on the 20th.

The Andersons are currently attempting to find new representation and considering action against Berry and Schottel.

Schottel had been required by the previous order to attend the Jan. 20 hearing. Berry and the Andersons were also in attendance.

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