Actor Robert Blake is asking a civil trial judge to rule that a jury's $30-million verdict against him is void or to grant a new trial in the wrongful-death lawsuit won by the children of his slain wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.
Blake's request of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Schacter is complicated by two factors: Blake, 72, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, and the civil trial judge did not immediately enter the judgment against Blake because he became ill after the trial ended in November. The judgment was entered seven days after the bankruptcy filing.
Blake's lawyers have filed papers saying that the belated entry of judgment means that, as a matter of law, the judgment is void. They said that a bankruptcy filing results in an automatic stay of all other proceedings against Blake and the judge in the civil case may no longer have jurisdiction.
The lawyers said they were filing a notice of a motion for new trial "as a precaution and under protest" to preserve Blake's rights.
Eric J. Dubin, who represented the Bakley family in the civil suit, said he is confident that the verdict will stand.
"The verdict is not dischargeable in bankruptcy court, because it involved an intentional act," Dubin said. He said he believes Blake has the assets to pay the $30 million and is hiding money somewhere.
M. Gerald Schwartzbach, Blake's criminal attorney who has joined his civil case, responded: "Mr. Dubin had an offer before trial to have a CPA of his choice examine all of Robert's books and he declined. He had no interest in settling this case because he was going to get himself a lot of publicity."
Schwartzbach said Blake does not have enough funds to pay his back taxes of $1.5 million, adding: "Everybody gets in line behind the government."
Bakley, 44, was shot to death May 4, 2001, in a car outside Vitello's, a Studio City restaurant where she and Blake had dined. Blake said he left her briefly to return to the restaurant and returned to find his wife bleeding in his sports car.
He was acquitted last March at his murder trial. But Bakley's children successfully claimed in their lawsuit that he should be held liable and forced to pay damages.
Schacter, who received the notice of intention to move for a new trial last week, gave the Blake defense team until March 27 to file affidavits and related legal papers. He gave the plaintiffs until April 3 to respond, and he set a hearing for April 7. He did not immediately rule on whether the judgment is void because of bankruptcy provisions.
Blake is due in bankruptcy court March 22 for a hearing that may decide which court has jurisdiction.