Trials & Litigation

As libel trial losers battle $1M legal bill, FBI probes claimed mid-trial DUI set-up of their lawyer


The trial in a defamation case between two radio shock jocks in Florida has been over for months.

But there’s no end in sight to continuing issues involving the law firms for both sides, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The losing plaintiffs in the libel case, disc jockey Todd “MJ” Schnitt and his wife, are now locked in contention with the law firm that represented them, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick. They paid an initial $1 million in billings, but so far have refused to pay an additional $1 million.

The law firm sued for its fees and is trying to get the matter into arbitration, citing language in the representation contract. The Schnitts’ new lawyer, Wil Florin, says they never saw an arbitration provision in the mass of paperwork they were given to sign.

The situation was complicated by the mid-trial arrest of their lead lawyer, C. Philip Campbell, on a driving-under-the-influence charge in January. At the time, he was driving a car owned by a paralegal at the opposing law firm, Adams & Diaco. The FBI, state prosecutors and the Florida Bar are investigating a claim that the law firm sent the paralegal to buy drinks for Campbell at a Tampa steakhouse before they left together in her vehicle.

The Tampa police sergeant who pulled the paralegal’s car over a few blocks away from the restaurant was tipped about Campbell’s condition by an Adams & Diaco lawyer. However, partner Stephen Diaco insists there is no evidence to show that his firm was involved in any set-up, the newspaper reports.

It appears that a potential mistrial issue over the claimed set-up of Campbell was resolved when the Schnitts and defendant Bubba the Love Sponge Clem resolved their differences in post-trial mediation, also averting a potential appeal by the Schnitts.

Clem agreed not to talk about Michelle Schnitt on-air, and not to seek to have the Schnitts cover his $800,000 legal bill, an earlier Tampa Bay Times article recounted. Although each side ordinarily covers its own attorney fees, the legal bill was at issue due to a refused pretrial settlement offer.

Campbell’s lawyer, John Fitzgibbons, tells the Tampa Tribune that his client is cooperating in a civil rights investigation initiated by the FBI over his mid-trial DUI arrest. The Tampa police chief said the department also is fully cooperating and that the arresting officer has turned over his cellphone.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “DJ wins radio rival defamation suit, but claimed lawyer DUI set-up by opposing firm unresolved”

Fox 13 News: “Details emerge about stakeout of MJ attorney before DUI arrest”

Tampa Bay Times: “Tampa firm in DUI case faced accusation of hardball in Miami”

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