Judge Freezes Cash Sought By Larry Birkhead In Legal Dispute


Thursday, July 12th 2007, 6:21 pm
By: News On 6


LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A judge froze a half-million-dollar account Thursday until it's decided whether the money belongs to Larry Birkhead or his ex-lawyer in the Anna Nicole Smith paternity case.

Superior Court Judge Charles C. Lee said he will decide by Tuesday whether to order arbitration to settle the dueling lawsuits by Birkhead and attorney Debra A. Opri.

Opri contends that Birkhead owes her more than $600,000 for her legal work on his request for DNA testing of Smith's baby daughter _ testing that in April showed he was the father.

Opri withdrew from the case in March and sued him two months later, seeking binding arbitration over the legal bills.

Birkhead countersued days later, contending that Opri owes him $505,250 held in a client trust account. He claims the money _ along with $200,000 that Opri already returned _ came from a deal he had with the Bravo cable network to talk about the paternity case.

Opri placed the money in the account against Birkhead's wishes and after Birkhead fired her when she refused to turn over the money, the lawsuit contended.

The judge took under submission a request by Birkhead to temporarily block Opri from spending money in the account.

Birkhead sued Smith last October seeking a paternity test of her daughter to determine who was the baby's father. Smith's companion and attorney, Howard Stern, also claimed to be the father and was listed on the baby's birth certificate.

In December, a judge ruled in Birkhead's favor but the DNA test was not performed until months later. Smith died in Florida on Feb. 8 of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.