Bernard Kerik ()
An upstate woman suing Bernard Kerik, claiming she wasn’t paid for helping the former New York City police commissioner write his 2015 memoir, is now facing a nearly $44,000 retaining lien granted to her ex-lawyers.
Dara DAddio, whose federal lawsuit against Kerik continues, failed to respond for more than a year to a motion for the retaining lien made by partner Autondria Minor of Schmeiser, Olsen & Watts. The national intellectual property law firm had represented her until January 2016, when its motion to withdraw as counsel was granted.
In addition, DAddio “has not made a clear showing that she is unable, rather than unwilling, to pay fees or post security for payment of fees” owed to Schmeiser, Olsen & Watts, wrote Southern District Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis in June, recommending a retaining lien of $43,894.
Southern District Judge John Koeltl, who is presiding over DAddio’s copyright-based lawsuit against Kerik, adopted Ellis’ recommendation on Wednesday, putting the lien into effect.
“No objections to the report and recommendation have been filed,” Koeltl noted in a brief order. “In any event, the court finds that the report and recommendation is well reasoned and correct,” he added.
DAddio filed a lawsuit against Kerik in 2015 that made headlines. She claimed that she had spent 2,700 hours over three years, working with her then-close friend Kerik on what became his memoir, “From Jailer to Jailed: My Journey From Correction and Police Commissioner to Inmate #84888-054.”
During the stretch, Kerik, a former George W. Bush administration cabinet nominee who was convicted of mail and wire fraud and tax evasion charges that including lying to White House officials, was incarcerated.
Two months after Kerik was released early from prison in 2013, DAddio alleged he stopped communicating with her. And she had already given him a copy of the memoir’s manuscript without her watermark, she said.
Alleging violations of the Copyright Act and asking for declaratory relief, DAddio, of Clifton Park, New York, sued for a half-interest in the memoir’s copyright, her share of royalties, and $25 to $40 per hour for her work. She claimed that she helped write, edit and do research for the book.
Kerik, represented by Timothy Parlatore, a partner in the New York office of FisherBroyles, has fought back hard. In late 2015, for instance, he filed counterclaims alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotion distress, among other claims, against DAddio.
“Dara DAddio developed an unhealthy and potentially dangerous obsession and fixation on Mr. Kerik,” Parlatore wrote in the counterclaims filing on Kerik’s behalf. Kerik also alleged that DAddio is mentally ill and has cyberstalked and cyberbullied him.
Meanwhile, DAddio has had mounting problems with her own representation in the ongoing suit.
Minor, a Schmeiser, Olsen & Watts partner based in Latham, New York, asked to withdraw as DAddio’s attorney in January 2016. Her reasons for wanting to withdraw were filed under seal. But Ellis, in his retaining lien report and recommendation, noted that Minor has stated her withdrawal was “based on tactical strategies and fee payment disputes.”
In addition, Ellis explained that DAddio paid a $5,000 retainer when she hired Minor in June 2015, but from September 2015 to January 2016, DAddio failed to pay invoices and replenish the retainer fund.
Koeltl, in granting the withdrawal motion in January 2016, also denied DAddio’s request that pro bono counsel be appointed to her. In recent court records, DAddio has been listed as pro se.
In addition, DAddio informed Ellis in an April 2016 letter that she didn’t have the money to pay a private attorney; that she was unable to find pro bono counsel; and that she was ill, unemployed, and a defendant in two state criminal cases in New York and New Jersey in which Kerik was the complainant.
In his recommendation for the retaining lien against DAddio, Ellis noted that New York case law recognizes “a distinct common law” retaining lien, and that federal courts recognize and follow it unless a specific federal law alters the parties’ rights.
He also wrote that when deciding a retaining lien motion, courts consider whether counsel has withdrawn for cause, a finding that typically comes when there has been a significant breach of legal duty.
No “for cause” withdraw occurred with Minor, he added.
Minor did not return a phone call seeking comment, and DAddio could not be reached for comment.
In an interview Thursday, Parlatore, Kerik’s attorney, said that he was not surprised by the retaining lien order or by the previous withdrawal of counsel. But he complained that “litigating against this woman pro se will be next to impossible,” as he noted dryly that while claims and counterclaims have been filed, the case so far has mostly been stalled as DAddio’s counsel issues have brought things to a halt.
“It’s impossible to have meaningful communications in the case with her,” Parlatore claimed.