Report: Opri's Legal Fees Top $600,000

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," April 2, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: If you think the feelings are only raw between Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead, try this one. Larry Birkhead and his farmer lawyer, Debra Opri. Two weeks ago, they parted ways, but on Saturday, according to, Larry got a very special FedEx delivery from his former lawyer, a legal bill topping $600,000. And that's not all. There is also news tonight about Florida's most colorful judge. You know him, Judge Larry Seidlin.

And a short time ago, Harvey Levin, managing editor of, went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Harvey, has a couple of columns that I want to ask you about today. First of all, let's start with Judge Seidlin, TMZ's reporting about him. What's the news with Judge Seidlin?

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: Well, as we say out in La-La-Land, Greta, he's out in Hollywood taking some meetings, we're told. He came out here, apparently, with his family and apparently, they're going to Disneyland, but they also may be making the rounds at some of the studios to talk about a deal.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea if he's traveling on his own dime or if a studio is paying for it? Because that usually is sort of a hint what direction this may be going.

LEVIN: I don't know that. I don't know that. But you know, it wouldn't surprise me. I'm sure a lot of people would like to sit down with him and talk about a court show. I mean, that's clearly where all of this is heading, and we know he wants that. So it just makes a whole lot of sense.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. TMZ had another sort of a bombshell. This is a rather — you talk about La-La-Land, sort of the pricey lawyers you have out in California. has a column or a story about Larry Birkhead's former lawyer, Debra Opri, and the billing. What can you tell us?

LEVIN: Well, he received a FedEx, we know, over the weekend, and it was a FedEx from Debra Opri, and there was a bill in there for over $611,000. It was 112 pages. And it was — there were some curious items in there. There were charges to attend Anna Nicole's funeral. There were charges for Debra Opri's publicist, $1,500 a month for three months. There were pretty expensive dinners, in one case totaling over $2,000. There was a dry cleaning bill for Debra Opri's husband in there. And there was travel to and from New York to do a "20/20" interview at 10 hours each, and she was charging around $450 an hour for all of this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know if Larry Birkhead had agreed to paying for this in advance of the billings?

LEVIN: I'm pretty sure, Greta, that there were no specific agreements as to specific items at all. And as you know, that's not the way attorney's fee agreements go. I mean, they go reasonable attorney's fee expenses, and the issue, is it reasonable to make all of those charges and more — I mean, dubbing tapes. She charged him for dubbing costs for dubbing some of her appearances on TV. So you know, I'm told that this was kind of a shocking bill. And she was willing to settle up for something less, if he did it immediately, at a little more than $500,000. But that is a heap of money.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The funeral thing, of course, you know, when I saw it on, I mean, obviously, my eyes got as big as saucers. Do you know if she was — happened to be in the Bahamas doing legal work, so that he would have been billed because she was there waiting for another court appearance, or did she go there for the funeral, to attend the funeral, to get paid?

LEVIN: Well, we're told that Birkhead didn't want her to attend the funeral. So you know, in spite of that, apparently, she went and charged this. Now, here's the rub in all of this. You know, I'm being told by people — and I can't get more specific than that — that Opri's position might be that she represented more than just Larry Birkhead in terms of legal services, but in terms of media services, as well. As unconventional as that sounds, that would be an interesting argument, don't you think?

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed, it would. I'd also like to see the retainer agreement and see exactly what the two had planned on. I guess — I mean, that's why most lawyers require you to put this in writing so that we can sort out these things in advance of huge blow-ups.

LEVIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, that's the key to this thing, which is what did they agree to up front? And you know, what kind of license did Debra Opri have to bill Larry Birkhead?

VAN SUSTEREN: How — what's Larry Birkhead's sort of his tone on this? Is he unhappy? Is he furious? Is he sad? Any idea how he's responding to this?

LEVIN: Well, I can't tell you his state of mind right now. I'm being told that he was none too happy, but you know, as would anybody be if they got a $600,000 bill in the mail, and especially on a Saturday, I might add. But I can't tell you that for sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Harvey, is it possible to tell on that bill how much are legal fees for work done and how much are expenses?

LEVIN: Well, you know, I think, Greta — I think it's broader than that. I mean, it's not just legal fees and expenses, it's whether the retainer agreement allows Opri to charge for legal fees and expenses, as well as pure media expenses that don't really relate to legal services. And I think that really is at the core of this whole thing. And you know, if the retainer agreement does provide for that, that's interesting. I've never seen it. But if it doesn't provide for that, that's going to be a tough argument for her to make.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this war?

LEVIN: Well, I don't think it's peace.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed, it isn't! All right, well — we all read it to get the latest. Thank you, Harvey.

LEVIN: See you, Greta.


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