More bad financial news for former NBA star Latrell Sprewell, who was sued by his own lawyer. A federal magistrate ruled today that Sprewell is liable to pay his former lawyer $92,649 plus interest for legal services from 2006 in the tangled sale of Sprewell’s Alameda County home.
Paul Utrecht, of Zacks & Utrecht, represented Sprewell from 1998 to 2008 on a variety of legal disputes. But to get paid he had to take his former client to federal court. The one-day trial was to consist of testimony only from Utrecht and Sprewell. But the former Golden State Warrior was a no-show, who remained in his Milwaukee home rather than come to the September hearing.
Sprewell, the 6-foot, 5-inch guard, played for the Warriors – until he tried to choke coach P.J. Carlesimo during a 1997 practice session. He then moved to the New York Knicks and later the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he ended his career in 2005 when he turned up his nose at a $21 million, three-year contract with the Timberwolves suggesting it wasn’t enough to feed his kids.
His current troubles spring from a lawsuit by his home’s buyer, who sued Sprewell alleging the ballplayer failed to disclose some defects in the house.
Sprewell was regularly late paying his lawyer’s bills but ultimately would pay the account, according to Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman in his order. But Sprewell has paid none of the $92,000 owed on the disputed home sale, he said.
Even though there was no written fee agreement between the two, the ongoing nature of Utrecht’s work for Sprewell means Utrecht is entitled to reasonable fees for his services.
Zimmerman found that Sprewell failed to show malpractice on Utrecht’s part, and even if the lawyer’s conduct fell below the standard of care the law demands, Sprewell never pressed a malpractice claim or any other challenge to the handling of the sale, other than refusing to pay his bill.
“In any event, [Sprewell] produced no testimony to support his claim…” Zimmerman noted.
Case: Zacks & Utrecht v. Sprewell, No. C11-1739BZ