Ann Maher Sep. 30, 2014, 8:46am

Plaintiffs suing over fraudulent Madison County tax sales are appealing an order that dismissed one of the defendants from class action claims.

Clinton County Circuit Judge Dennis Middendorff, who had been appointed as an outside judge to preside over three separate cases consolidated to one, dismissed RLI Insurance on Aug. 25.

Before lead plaintiff Scott Bueker appealed Middendorff's ruling to the Fifth District Appellate Court on Sept. 22, a new judge was assigned to the consolidated actions.

Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, Michael D. McHaney, on Sept. 15 assigned Associate Judge William J. Becker to preside over the litigation.

Middendorff is retiring at the end of November.

The lawsuits seek damages for property owners who claim they had to pay artifically high prices to redeem their overdue taxes during the period of time when former Madison County treasurer Fred Bathon was in office. Plaintiffs claim that up to 10,000 property owners may have been affected.

Bathon, who served as treasurer from 1998 until his resignation in 2009, pleaded guilty last year to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act in relation to rigged tax sales. He was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Tax buyers John Vassen, Scott McLean and Barrett Rochman also pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme and are serving prison sentences.

Bueker is represented by Aaron G. Weishaar of Reinert Weishaar and Associates in St. Louis and others.

Madison County case number 13-L-276. 13-L-376, 13-L-390.

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