Kathleen Zellner | KOMUnews [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
CHICAGO — A celebrity lawyer and her former client, both suing each other over their professional relationship, have advanced their dispute with dueling motions to dismiss.
Lathierial Boyd filed a malpractice complaint in December 2018 in Cook County Circuit Court against Kathleen Zellner, who made her name representing another man at the heart of the 2015 Netflix television series “Making A Murderer,” alleging the DuPage woman didn’t properly represent him in a federal civil rights lawsuit and now owes him $20 million. On Jan. 9, Zellner sued Boyd and his ex-girlfriend, Lisa DePiero, accusing them of fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office got Boyd’s 1990 murder conviction vacated in 2013. Now in his early 50s, Boyd maintains he was wrongly accused of participating in the fatal shooting outside a Chicago nightclub and said Chicago Police Department officers “fabricated evidence and maliciously prosecuted him.” On Dec. 6, 2016, the city and police department won their motion for summary judgment, ending Boyd’s bid for financial recovery in his civil suit. Zellner has said Boyd rejected offers to settle the case because they fell short of his requested $20 million.
While Boyd claimed Zellner’s alleged mishandling of the case caused him to lose his civil suit, Zellner has, in turn, accused Boyd of withholding crucial information and giving contradicting depositions. Joined in her suit by the Law Offices of Paul DeLuca, Zellner said both Boyd and DiPiero were arrested on criminal charges while the civil case was pending. She further said Boyd didn’t pay DeLuca’s firm for its criminal defense work and accused DiPiero of trying to extort $2.5 million from Boyd’s expected civil suit winnings in exchange for her performance as a star witness “as to the extreme damage that his wrongful incarceration caused,” according to a letter submitted as evidence.
A Cook County Circuit Court judge dismissed Boyd’s complaint on Oct. 17, granting him 14 days to amend the complaint. He did so Oct. 31, and on Nov. 21, Zellner moved to have the amended complaint dismissed. Boyd and DiPerio filed their motion to have Zellner’s complaint dismissed on the following day.
In her motion, Zellner said the alleged injury at the root of Boyd’s lawsuit was the Dec. 6, 2016, summary judgment against him ending the civil suit, more than two years before he sued her for malpractice. She further said Boyd failed to plead an actual injury and that the summary judgment “was directly traceable” to Boyd’s own actions.
“Unfortunately for (Boyd),” Zellner said, “the law does not recognize delusional or illusory damages, and requires compensation only for actual injuries.”
Boyd, now represented by Daniel Stohr, of Chicago, said Zellner’s suit didn’t put a date on the actions that supposedly constituted fraudulent inducement. Boyd further said Zellner’s complaint is “substantially insufficient in law” for several reasons, including that although she said Boyd made false statements, she didn’t allege he was knowingly making false statements.
While Zellner admitted abandoning Boyd’s case by dismissing an appeal, Boyd said, he repeated his assertion she only allegedly did so based on a conflict with her vacation schedule. Boyd also said Zellner’s assertions about his and DiPiero’s criminal charges and DeLuca’s representation were “nothing other than a general allegation.” He further said Zellner isn’t allowed to force recovery from him for services provided to third parties.