Supreme Court denies attorney's move in Venezia wrongful death case

By Amelia Flood | Mar 16, 2010



St. Louis attorney James Schottel Jr. will have to pay his former clients in a wrongful death suit $1,600 as ordered by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young.

Schottel had filed a move with the Illinois Supreme Court asking for leave to file a writ of mandamus or prohibition that would force St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young to overturn previous orders that required him to return a $1,600 retainer fee he was paid by Michael and Cynthia Anderson.

The Supreme Court's denial of Schottel's motion was sent by letter from Clerk Juleann Hornyak's office. It was filed in St. Clair County March 4.

The Andersons paid Schottel $1,600 to represent them in a wrongful death suit against the estate of convicted racketeer Thomas Venezia and Robert Staack on behalf of their deceased daughter,

Jennifer Anderson, 22, was found dead from a gunshot wound to the back of the head in the Belleville home she shared with Venezia in July 2005. The 64 year-old Venezia, who was convicted of racketeering in 1995, was also found dead from a gunshot wound at the scene.

The Belleville Police Department ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.
The Andersons filed suit in 2007, alleging Staack was guilty of negligently entrusting the gun used in the shootings to Venezia.

However, neither defendant has been served since the suit's filing three years ago.

Schottel filed to withdraw as the Andersons' attorney in September 2009. Schottel, who uses a wheel chair, claimed the loss of his office staff and helper made it impossible for him to continue representing the Andersons.

After hearings that Schottel missed in September and November of last year, Young allowed Schottel to withdraw in December. Young allowed the withdrawal on the condition that he return the Andersons' retainer.

Schottel then filed a motion asking Young to reconsider the ruling, arguing that despite statements made by his co-counsel William Berry, he had done the work that entitled him to keep the fee.

Berry and Schottel have blamed each other in past hearings for the suit's lack of progress.

While Berry and the Andersons attended a January hearing on the motion to reconsider, Schottel was again a no-show. After a call from Young's clerk, the hearing moved to Young's chambers for arguments via conference call.

Young denied Schottel's motion to reconsider and ordered payment of the $1,600.

Schottel then filed his petition with the Illinois Supreme Court.

He argued that he was entitled to the funds and asked the court to order Young to reverse his previous orders.

Belleville attorney Stephen McGlynn, who does not represent the Andersons but has been advising them in the case, filed a response to the Supreme Court move on Young's behalf Feb. 16.

In the response, McGlynn argued Schottel had shown "zero effort" in pursuing the Andersons' case and that granting Schottel's petition would be an "extraordinary remedy."

It is typical that petitioners in matter such as the one Schottel filed with the Supreme Court answer on the judge in question's behalf.

Since Schottel withdrew, the Andersons have not been able to find another attorney, although Berry remains counsel of record.

A status conference in the case has been set for May.

As neither defendant has been served, no attorney is listed for either.

The case is St. Clair case number 07-L-359.

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