Young moves for sanctions against Schottel, calling federal lawsuit 'frivolous'

Amelia Flood Nov. 29, 2010, 6:20am



ST. LOUIS - St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young is asking a federal court judge to sanction St. Louis attorney James Schottel Jr. for filing a "frivolous lawsuit."

Schottel sued Young and Belleville attorney William Berry over a retainer fee he was ordered to return to his former clients in a St. Clair County wrongful death case involving convicted felon Thomas Venezia.

Young and Berry are asking the court to dismiss Schottel's suit.

The underlying case was filed three years ago by Michael and Cynthia Anderson, the parents of Jennifer Anderson.

Jennifer Anderson was found dead from a gunshot wound to the back of the head in the home she shared with convicted racketeer Thomas Venezia.

Venezia was also found dead at the scene.

The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide by police.

The Andersons filed suit against Thomas Venezia's estate and Robert Staack for the wrongful death of their daughter.

Schottel was slated to be lead counsel with Berry acting as local counsel.

Neither defendant was ever served in the case.

Berry and Schottel blamed each other during court proceedings for the case's lack of progress.

Schottel filed to withdraw from the case last September.

After he missed several hearings in Young's Belleville courtroom, the judge allowed the withdrawal on the condition that Schottel return $1,600 the Andersons paid him as part of the retainer in the case.

Schottel asked Young to reconsider allowing him to keep the fee.

Young denied that request in January.

Schottel then filed for a writ of mandamus with the Illinois State Supreme Court.

That writ, if granted, would have forced Young to overturn his order, allowing Schottel to keep the fee.

The Supreme Court rejected that plea in March.

Schottel was eventually allowed to leave the case after returning the Andersons' fee this past summer.

Young dismissed the Andersons' case in August for want of prosecution as they were unable to find another attorney to take over the suit.

Schottel filed his case in St. Louis federal court in September.

In the suit, Schottel claims that Young and Berry conspired to violate his Constitutional rights and to deprive him of property without cause, namely the $1,600.

Both Young and Berry have asked to have the suit dismissed.

In the federal court suit, Schottel waived a "safe harbor" rule allowing Young to file the motion for sanctions.

According to a notice waiving the 21-Day Safe Harbor provision, Young's attorney, Assistant Attorney General Rex Gradeless, asked Schottel to withdraw the complaint.

Schottel writes in the Nov. 20 that he will not withdraw the suit.

Young and Berry filed their dismissal moves earlier this month.

The federal case was filed in the Eastern District Court of Missouri.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Autrey presides.

Young will leave the bench tomorrow to retire.

Schottel represents himself in the federal case.

The federal suit is case number 4:10-cv-01673-HEA.

The underlying suit brought by the Andersons in St. Clair County is case number 07-L-359.

More News