Doctor In Years-Long Court Battle With Her Former Lawyers Is Jailed Over Court Debt

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Dr. Nataly Minkina (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dr. Nataly Minkina (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A 59-year-old doctor from Chestnut Hill was jailed Tuesday for up to 90 days for failing to pay a $78,000 court debt.

The jailing is a dramatic escalation of a five-year legal fight over fees Dr. Nataly Minkina was ordered to pay her former lawyers after she unsuccessfully sued them for legal malpractice.

In 2009, Minkina sued the Boston law firm formerly named Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz (now Powers, Jodoin, Margolis & Mantell) for malpractice, claiming it was negligent while representing her in an employment discrimination case. In 2013, a judge dismissed the malpractice claim as frivolous and — in a rare move — granted the attorneys' request to make Minkina pay the legal fees the firm had incurred defending itself.

The fees originally totaled $175,000. Including interest, the judgment against Minkina has grown to about $250,000.

Minkina's wages have been garnished for the past two years, and she has paid tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees that an outside attorney, Dana Casher, has billed to represent the former Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz. She was jailed for one night in December 2017 until she paid some of those legal fees.

On June 1, a judge found Minkina in contempt and ordered her to come up with $78,000 for the court to put in escrow by July 10. The deadline was extended for seven weeks. When Minkina failed to pay on Tuesday, Judge Diane Freniere ordered her to jail, calling it "coercive confinement."

Minkina is taken away in cuffs Tuesday. (Lynn Jolicoeur/WBUR)
Minkina is taken away in cuffs Tuesday. (Lynn Jolicoeur/WBUR)

Attorney Casher says Minkina has the money to pay the court.

"Only when push goes beyond shove does she access the moneys that she has or has access to," Casher said Tuesday. "And that's what had to happen."

But Minkina's husband, Leonid Winestein, says the only money she can access — her home's equity and her retirement fund — is exempt from court action to collect a debt. Still, the couple applied for refinancing of their Chestnut Hill home in an attempt to get the $78,000. On Tuesday they gave the court documentation to show they had been approved last Friday for the refinancing, but that it will only lead to about $60,000 in cash.

Winestein says he and his wife now will not be able to close on that loan with her in jail, and he worries about her losing her job and therefore her wages.

"This is the worst kind of injustice someone can imagine," Winestein said. "It's abuse of law and not a misuse of law."

This segment aired on August 29, 2018.


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Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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