Producer Phil Spector has filed suit against his former attorney and longtime friend Robert Shapiro, in an attempt to reclaim a $1.5 million retainer Shapiro took when he represented Spector in his on

LOS ANGELES -- Producer Phil Spector has filed suit against his former attorney and longtime friend Robert Shapiro, in an attempt to reclaim a $1.5 million retainer Shapiro took when he represented Spector in his ongoing murder case.

The suit, which names Shapiro and the firm of Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, was filed July 1 in California Superior Court in Los Angeles.

Spector was arrested Feb. 3, 2003, on suspicion of murder charges, after the body of actress Lana Clarkson, who had been shot to death, was discovered in his Alhambra, Calif., home.

According to the action, Spector turned to his "friend and confidant" Shapiro -- known for his work on O.J. Simpson's defense team -- for help.

The suit alleges that Shapiro "decided to use Mr. Spector's troubles an an opportunity to make a financial windfall and garner publicity for himself."

The action claims that Spector signed a letter engaging Shapiro's professional services on Feb. 7, 2003. The letter -- which the suit terms "vague, ambiguous and confusing" and "unconscionable" -- required Spector to immediately pay $1.5 million as a non-refundable retainer.

The suit notes that Shapiro was aware that Spector "was under the care of a mental health professional and was prescribed medications for the purpose of stabilizing Mr. Spector's mental condition."

It alleges that at the time Spector signed the agreement with Shapiro, he had not taken his medication for several days, and "was laboring under a tremendous amount of mental stress that comes with being arrested for murder."

Spector also maintains that Shapiro "did not devote significant time or energy to case, and had only a rudimentary understanding of the facts, evidence or issues involved in the case."

In one much-discussed example cited by the suit, Shapiro told prosecutors that he had discovered a fingernail that had purportedly been missed by investigators who searched Spector's home. Shapiro made this representation "even though (his) own hired consultants had told Shapiro that, in fact, no fingernail had been discovered."

Spector discharged Shapiro as his attorney in January. He has since hired Leslie Abramson, who defended Erik Menendez in the sensational Menendez murder trial of the '90s.

According to Spector's suit, a billing statement indicated that Shapiro's work on the case had generated only $95,407 in billable time, and that this figure was "grossly inflated."

Spector seeks a declaration that he is entitled to the retainer, in whole or in part; compensatory, special and punitive damages to be determined; and attorneys' fees.

Contacted by ELW, Shapiro says that he cannot comment on Spector's suit, citing attorney-client privelege. However, Shapiro adds, "We're going to contest all the allegations in court."

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