Unlikely pair reach agreement to void Crowder's order from beginning

Steve Korris Mar. 30, 2006, 12:41am

Thomas Maag

Gordon Broom

Rewriting history, Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack and attorneys Thomas Maag and Gordon Broom agreed that Associate Judge Barbara Crowder did not sign an emergency order for Maag in January.

Stack coaxed an agreement from the unlikely pair to stop the embarrassment that Crowder's order produced.

Maag and Broom composed an order March 29 and Stack signed it, declaring Crowder's Jan. 26 action void "ab initio -" which means from the beginning.

Maag resisted the Latin line and Broom insisted on it.

Stack asked if they wanted to go on or get out. They stayed and Maag yielded.

Stack had held the case over from morning to afternoon to give it enough time. He worked hard in a room so warm that someone opened a window.

Broom kept reminding Stack that if the order stayed in force, there would have to be an investigation of how it got signed.

Neither Crowder nor Maag has dispelled the mystery around it. Apparently Maag will never have to explain.

Crowder, as candidate for circuit judge, must explain if voters ask her.

On Jan. 26, Maag brought to the courthouse a complaint in which Keith Yount and Cindy Yount sued Lisa Shashek, Cassens & Sons and Cassens Corporation.

Keith Yount claimed he suffered injuries hauling cars for Cassens.

Shashek is a member of the Cassens family.

With the complaint Maag carried "emergency interrogatories" seeking facts from Cassens & Sons and Cassens Corporation about a tractor and a trailer.

The interrogatories did not ask for any facts from Shashek, the lead defendant.

Maag also carried an emergency motion to speed up the answers, plus a proposed order granting the emergency motion.

He signed the complaint, the interrogatories and the motion, even though his name appeared below that of Charles Armbruster of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.

Maag had just left Lakin and joined Wendler and Ezra, in Collinsville.

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson assigned the case to Circuit Judge Don Weber.

However, Maag took the file to Crowder.

Crowder might have asked if the defendants knew about the suit.

She might have asked if responsibility for the case rested with Armbruster and his firm or with Maag and his firm.

She might have asked why they did not direct questions to the lead defendant.

She might have asked if Ferguson had assigned the case to a circuit judge.

Or, she might not have asked. She signed what Maag showed her.

When the defendants received notice of the suit, they removed it to U.S. District Court in East St. Louis. A federal judge sent it right back.

The assignment to Weber still applied, but as soon as it returned to him the Younts moved for substitution.

In Illinois everyone gets a free shot to remove a judge without cause. For a second substitution a party must prove a judge's bias.

Broom opposed substitution, and Weber held a hearing on it March 7. Maag did not appear. Armbruster represented the Younts.

Broom argued that the Younts waived the right to substitution through Maag's conduct in obtaining Crowder's signature.

Armbruster said that Weber had no grounds to deny substitution, that plaintiff's counsel had done no wrong, and that Weber lacked authority even to hold a hearing.

Weber allowed substitution, but in a March 8 order he asked the Fifth District appeals court if a party could waive the right to substitution through improper judge shopping.

Weber sent the file to Ferguson, who assigned Stack to it.

Stack's March 29 hearing started on a sour note. Broom said Maag said he had a motion to compel. Broom said he did not have it.

Maag said, "You denied that you represented Cassens."

Broom said to Stack that he would ask that Maag address the court.

Maag said the motion was mailed Feb. 27. Broom said, "I don't have that, judge."

Maag said, "I can't help that."

Broom said Crowder entered an order without notice. "It is a void order," he said.

Stack said, "You are asking me to vacate Judge Crowder's order?"

Broom said, "Absolutely." He said, "You can't have this kind of order."

Stack said Broom should go to Crowder with his motion. Broom said, "Then she should hear the motion to compel."

Stack said he could not vacate another judge's order unless it was void ab initio.

Broom said, "It is." He moved to declare it so.

He said no provision of law allows an order without notice except a temporary restraining order, and that requires a verified petition.

He said, "You can't let an order like this stand or you are going to have to have a full hearing on how it came to be. We don't need that."

Maag said Broom knew they would file the suit. He said that on the phone Broom told him he had to do what he had to do.

Maag said, "He chose not to appear."

Broom accused Maag of misrepresentation and said, "I had no prior notice."

He said, "They found Judge Crowder, an unsuspecting judge." He said it might have been represented to her as an agreed order.

"We don't need an investigation," he said. "It's void."

He said, "I'm asking the court not to be used like this."

Maag said he would compromise and vacate the order if he could get a new order.

Stack said, "It is declared void ab initio by agreement."

Maag said he did not agree to that.

Broom asked why not. Maag said, "I don't want it to be cited as a precedent."

Broom said, "I hope you don't do that again. I hope no judge does that again."

Stack said, "No one intended anything nefarious."

Nefarious means very wicked.

Stack had used the word weeks earlier, finding that there was nothing nefarious about the last order of retired Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis. Stack vacated that order.

Nefarious or not, both faulty orders fell on the same victim - the Cassens family.

Stack said, "Perhaps it wasn't done the way it should have been done. I'm not going to second guess Judge Crowder."

Still Maag resisted the term, ab initio. He said they were dealing with minute points.

Broom said, "I don't think this proceeding is a minute matter."

Stack said if Maag agreed to vacate, he could take it to Crowder.

Broom asked if Crowder would hold a hearing. He said he would ask her to declare it void ab initio.

Stack asked if they wanted to go on or get out. Maag said, "Not ab initio."

Broom asked why. Maag said,"I do not believe it to be ab initio."

Then Maag gave up. He said, "We will try to work out some phraseology."

Stack said, "When you have an agreement let me know."

Broom and Maag wrote that, "…upon agreement/stipulation of the parties, the order is hereby vacated as being void ab initio."

They wrote that plaintiffs would resubmit the interrogatories and defendants would answer in seven days.

They took the order to Stack. He signed. Broom and Maag added their initials.

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