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'Act Quickly,' Bakley's Kin Advised

In their efforts to collect the $30-million court award, time is not on their side, says a lawyer involved in the O.J. Simpson civil trial.

November 19, 2005|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Attorney Michael A. Brewer has some advice for Bonny Lee Bakley's four children, who were awarded a $30-million civil damage award Friday from actor Robert Blake for liability in the death of their mother.

"Act quickly. Be extremely aggressive in the collection of any judgment," said Brewer, one of the attorneys who won a similar $33.5-million civil judgment in 1997 against O.J. Simpson for liability for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

"Make certain you put on a full court press. If you're a year or two or three down the road, odds are very slight that you will be successful."

A civil jury found Blake liable for Bakley's 2001 gunshot slaying outside a Studio City restaurant, despite Blake's March acquittal in a criminal trial. Simpson also was acquitted in criminal court but found liable at a civil trial.

Simpson is living in Florida on $25,000 monthly income, including an NFL pension, which is exempt from court judgments, Brewer said.

The lawyer did collect about $400,000, but not much went to the survivors of the victims.

"If you're talking about net in the plaintiffs' pockets, maybe 10[%] or 20% of that," Brewer said.

The meager proceeds to the survivors came from items seized from Simpson and auctioned in 1999, including his Heisman Trophy, which brought $255,500; a Hall of Fame award, $11,500; two Tiffany-style lamps, $8,050 each; a painting of a girl given to Simpson by singer Donna Summer, $6,325; and a fox fur coat, $633.

Simpson also gave up a $40,000 gold necklace with 89 diamonds, a $26,500 full-length fur coat, a $16,297 collection of Italian silverware, golf clubs, artwork and other items, according to a court inventory.

The hunt for assets goes on, Brewer said. Last year, after another court hearing, the plaintiffs -- the Goldman and Brown families -- obtained two press credentials issued to the football Hall of Famer to cover the 1984 Olympics for TV: value unknown.

"Our efforts continue," Brewer said.

Brewer said Blake has an arsenal of legal delays at his disposal: post-trial motions, which can halt enforcement of damage awards, then an appeal, which can stall proceedings as long as 2 1/2 years.

When he turns 59 on July 9, Simpson's pension from Hertz, which he represented in TV ads, should at least double his monthly income, Brewer said. But under the law, that income can't be seized either.

"We knew, given the manner in which he had accumulated wealth, it was going to be a challenge to enforce [the judgment]," Brewer said. "To be honest with you, I thought we'd be a little farther along than we are."

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