In the Press

Simpson suit targets miniseries on murder defense

August 16, 2000 | San Francisco Examiner

By Bob Egelko

O.J. Simpson wants to stop an upcoming TV miniseries about the defense in his murder case, saying its purported revelations are the product of a lawyer’s breach of legal confidentiality and an author’s breach of promise.

Simpson filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against his former friend and lawyer, Robert Kardashian, and author Lawrence Schiller, whose 1996 book “American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense” is the basis of the series now being filmed for CBS Television for airing in November. Both men denied the wrongdoing alleged by Simpson.

Judge David Yaffe refused to issue a restraining order that would have immediately barred Schiller from working on the miniseries, but scheduled a hearing Sept. 6 on a request for a preliminary injunction that would accomplish the same purpose. The suit also seeks return of any profits Schiller and Kardashian made by violating Simpson’s rights.

“This action is about the avaricious disregard of the attorney-client relationship, and of promises of confidentiality, by an attorney and a writer who value the fame and fortune to be derived from publishing information about a sensational trial more than adhering to their ethical obligations and contractual agreements,” said Terry Gross, an attorney for Simpson, in court papers.

Specifically, he alleged that Schiller had gained the cooperation of Simpson and eight of his lawyers for the book project by promising, falsely, that Simpson would be allowed to review the manuscript before publication and remove any confidential material.

The suit also accused Kardashian, a member of Simpson’s defense team, of divulging conversations and defense secrets to Schiller in violation of a lawyer’s legal duty to keep confidential all information learned during the attorney-client relationship. Schiller, who wrote the book with journalist James Willwerth, initially described Kardashian as co-author and wound up paying him a fee, the suit said.

Simpson’s attorneys provided a copy of a letter from the State Bar last month saying it had privately reprimanded Kardashian for professional misconduct and ordered him, with his agreement, not to practice law for two years. The disciplinary action was in response to Simpson’s allegations, his attorneys said.

In reply to the suit, Schiller and Kardashian denied making any promises to Simpson about the book or miniseries and also said Simpson should have sued before the book was published in 1996.

Gross said Simpson hadn’t sued then because he was tied up in a civil damage suit. Gross also said the miniseries had large amounts of confidential material that weren’t in the book. Schiller, who is directing the TV production, said the content was virtually the same.

A Los Angeles jury acquitted Simpson in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. A civil jury in Orange County, however, later found the former football star responsible for their deaths in a suit by the victims’ families.

One of the last scenes of Schiller’s book portrays Kardashian, Simpson’s longtime friend, as doubting his innocence, despite the acquittal.

Schiller, a veteran author and journalist, worked with Simpson on “I Want to Tell You,” a book of fan letters published during the murder trial. In a sworn statement submitted by his lawyers, he said he had never promised Simpson to keep any information confidential or to follow his direction about the content of a book on the trial or any film based on it. He also said no such agreements had been made with any of Simpson’s defense attorneys.

But Gross, in Tuesday’s suit, said eight members of Simpson’s defense team, including F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz and Barry Scheck, had submitted statements saying Schiller had promised them he would submit the book’s manuscript to Simpson for review and removal of any confidential information.

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