Five high profile lawyers seeking confidentiality for documents in someone else’s lawsuit wrapped their argument in secrecy.
Stephen Tillery, Brad Lakin, John Simmons, Jeff Cooper and Randall Bono sealed a brief they filed on Sept. 12, opposing a subpoena that State Farm served in a federal class action.
State Farm served it on researcher Doug Wojcieszak, who did not assert any privilege of confidentiality.
Tillery, Lakin, Simmons, Cooper, and Bono did assert privilege, and they withheld 413 of Wojcieszak’s documents from State Farm.
Lawyers leading the action against State Farm also asserted privilege against the subpoena and withheld hundreds of documents.
Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams, responsible for discovery in the action against State Farm, set a hearing on the assertions for Oct. 21.
Lead plaintiff Mark Hale claims State Farm fraudulently secured the election of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004, in order to overturn a $1 billion judgment.
Hale seeks to recover the judgment with interest and triple damages under racketeering law.
He claims State Farm provided secret support to Karmeier through indirect contributions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other sources.
At the same time, in a case at the Illinois Supreme Court, Tillery attributes the same indirect contributions to cigarette maker Philip Morris.
Tillery wants Karmeier to recuse himself from review of a $10 billion judgment in a consumer fraud bench trial from 2003, or for the other Justices to disqualify him.
State Farm’s recent subpoena for Wojcieszak’s documents revealed something that had not been in the public record for 14 years - that Lakin, Simmons, Cooper, and Bono were attorneys of counsel in the Philip Morris case. It became known when Tillery asserted privilege over the Wojcieszak documents for himself and the other attorneys.
Wojcieszak worked for both sets of lawyers in the State Farm and Philip Morris cases
The brief that Bill Lucco of Edwardsville filed and sealed for them in the State Farm case won’t necessarily remain under seal.
An order that Williams adopted in June provides that a party wishing to designate a document as confidential must file it initially under seal.
He allowed 10 days for either side or an outside party who produced the document to move for it to remain under seal.
“The designation of any document as confidential information is subject to challenge by any party,” Williams wrote.
“The burden of persuasion in any such challenge proceeding shall be on the designating party.”
He wrote that the prevailing party may request legal fees and costs.
“A party or interested member of the public has a right to challenge the sealing of particular documents that have been filed under seal, and the party asserting confidentiality will have the burden of demonstrating the propriety of filing under seal,” Williams wrote.
On Sept. 15, he showed he won’t wait for others to challenge confidentiality.
He set a conference Oct. 1, to consider unsealing and unredacting documents filed thus far.
(Editor's note: The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform owns the Madison-St. Clair Record).