Lawyer sanctioned over unpaid Baker McKenzie tab

Baker McKenzie legal offices in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Law firm sought to question defendant as part of bid to collect debt
  • Judge orders defendant to appear for deposition in next 30 days

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(Reuters) – A judge in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday sanctioned a lawyer who has not responded to a lawsuit filed by the law firm Baker McKenzie seeking payment for a $77,000 legal services tab.

Attorney Catherine Brentzel must pay the legal fees of Baker McKenzie for its work trying to get her to respond to questions about her assets, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams said in a brief order.

A judgment was issued against Brentzel in March 2021.

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“The defendant in this case has not yet appeared, not responded after judgment was entered, and has not opposed this motion,” Williams wrote in Tuesday’s order. She directed Brentzel to appear for a deposition in the next 30 days.

Brentzel, described in the lawsuit as a former securities attorney, did not respond immediately to messages on Wednesday seeking comment. The Pennsylvania bar says her admission has been administratively suspended.

A Baker McKenzie lawyer assigned to the case did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The firm sued Brentzel in June 2020 over an alleged unpaid debt. The firm said it had provided legal services to her for several years starting in 2016 involving a legal dispute in Geneva, Switzerland.

Baker McKenzie alleged Brentzel timely paid at the start but then stopped paying.

Brentzel said in an October 2019 letter to the law firm, which was part of the lawsuit, that she was “working hard” to sell her house and that she would pay the firm’s fees from the sale.

The lawsuit said she sold her Washington, D.C., house in January 2020 for $12 million. News media reports about the sale said the house once belonged to the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Baker McKenzie in recent months had sought to depose Brentzel as part of the firm’s bid to collect the debt owed to it. Brentzel did not respond to “interrogatories” and did not appear for a November 2021 deposition, the firm alleged.

“The judicial process cannot function when parties so flagrantly, pervasively, and deliberately ignore their obligations,” lawyers for the firm told the court in December.

The case is Baker & McKenzie LLP v. Brentzel, D.C. Superior Court, No. 2020-CA-002867B.

For plaintiff: Marisa Bakker of Baker McKenzie

For defendant: Pro se

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