Suit against former Judge Young over Venezia case stalls in federal court

Amelia Flood Mar. 18, 2011, 6:29am


A suit against former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young has stalled in federal court.

In the suit filed last year, St. Louis attorney James Schottel Jr. claims Young violated his civil rights when he ordered the return of a $1,600 retainer fee to Schottel's former clients, Michael and Cynthia Anderson of Belleville.

The Andersons were suing the estate of racketeer Thomas Venezia, and another defendant, over the shooting death of their daughter.

The last filing in Schottel's suit against Young and co-defendant, Belleville attorney William Berry, was on Dec. 17, 2010.

In his suit, Schottel also claims that Young and Berry conspired to violate his civil rights and deprive him of his property.

Young presided over a 2007 wrongful death suit in which Schottel had been hired to represent the Andersons as they sought civil court relief from Venezia's estate and Robert Staack, who had owned the gun used to kill Jennifer Anderson, who was 21.

Jennifer Anderson was killed by a gunshot to the back of her head in the home she shared with Venezia.

Venezia was also found dead at the scene.

Investigators ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.

The Andersons alleged that Staack negligently entrusted the gun to Venezia who was suffering from ill-health and emotional issues in the days leading up to the deaths.

Berry served as local counsel for the Andersons in the suit.

However, neither defendant was ever served in the 2007 case.

Schottel filed to withdraw as the Andersons' attorney in September 2009.

He cited staff changes at his office and his wheelchair-bound status as reasons for bowing out of the suit.

After missing several hearings, Young entered an order that would allow the withdrawal on the condition that Schottel return $1,600 that the Andersons paid him as part of a retainer fee.

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

Young denied that request in January 2010.

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

The writ, if allowed, would have mandated that Young allow Schottel to keep the money.

The Supreme Court declined to give permission for the writ.

Eventually, after more missed hearings, Young warned Schottel
that he would send a body attachment to St. Louis to bring him to Young's courtroom if needed.

Schottel eventually returned the $1,600 to the Andersons.

Their wrongful death case against the Venezia estate and Staack was dismissed with prejudice for lack of prosecution in August 2010.

Schottel filed his federal suit against Young and Berry in the Eastern District Court for Missouri a month later.

Young and Berry have both moved to dismiss Schottel suit.

The Dec. 17, 2010 filing was a response by Schottel to a move Young filed asking U.S. District Court Judge Henry Autrey to sanction Schottel if he did not drop his suit.

Schottel argued in that response that contrary to Young's position, his case had a basis in law and that Young does not make a case for why Schottel's case should not go forward.

Young retired from the bench Nov. 30, 2010.

Schottel Jr. represents himself.

Assistant Attorney General Rex Gradeless represents Young.

Richard Korn represents Berry.

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

The federal suit that resulted from Young's order that Schottel Jr. return the Anderson's retainer fee is case number 4:10-cv-01673-HEA.

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