Maag stirs the pot, asks chief to strike bulk of Weber order

Steve Korris Apr. 6, 2006, 7:50am

It took two months and three judges to overcome the embarrassment that attorney Thomas Maag caused when he improperly obtained a court order.

Now someone wants to keep the scandal churning – Maag himself.

He filed a motion March 31, asking Circuit Judge Edward Ferguson to strike most of an order that Circuit Judge Don Weber signed March 8.

Weber's order asked the Fifth District appellate court if a party could waive the right to free substitution of a judge through improper judge shopping.

Weber wrote that Maag employed "hallway procedure" to avoid the assigned judge and seek out an associate judge.

Weber wrote, "The Court further finds that the Plaintiffs' attorney is using the automatic change of judge statute for improper 'judge shopping.'"

Maag's new motion asks Ferguson to vacate or strike almost all of Weber's order.

According to Maag, Weber had no power to certify any question for appeal.

The trouble started Jan. 26, when Maag filed suit for Keith Yount and Cindy Yount against Lisa Shashek, Cassens Corporation and Cassens & Sons.

The complaint listed Charles Armbruster of the Lakin Law Firm as first counsel. Maag, of Wendler & Ezra, appeared second. Maag signed the complaint.

Maag also signed a motion for an emergency order shortening the time for Cassens Corporation and Cassens & Sons to answer questions.

Ferguson, as chief judge, assigned the suit to Weber.

Before the file reached Weber, Associate Judge Barbara Crowder signed Maag's emergency order.

The defense removed the case to U. S. District Court in East St. Louis, but a federal judge sent it back to Weber.

The Younts moved to substitute Weber. In Illinois, everyone gets one free shot to remove a judge without cause.

At a hearing on substitution March 3, Maag told Weber that when he took the file to Crowder he did not know Ferguson had assigned Weber to it.

Weber held another hearing March 7. Maag did not appear.

Armbruster told Weber he had no authority to deny the motion or even to hold a hearing on it.

Weber's March 8 order allowed substitution but called Maag's action a flagrant case of judge shopping and a serious abuse of the court's processes.

At a March 27 hearing before Ferguson, Maag's action and Weber's reaction took center stage even though the Yount case was not on the docket.

Ferguson had combined 14 motions of the Lakin firm for substitution with cause in all the firm's cases before Weber.

Substitution with cause requires proof of a judge's bias.

At the hearing, Charles Chapman of the Lakin firm said Weber's order on Maag proved his bias against the Lakin firm.

Ferguson signed an order March 29, denying the motions but scolding Weber for adding more than necessary to his March 8 order.

Also on March 29, Circuit Judge Daniel Stack declared Crowder's order void. Stack said there was nothing nefarious about Crowder's order.

The orders of Ferguson and Stack could have closed the book on Crowder's mysterious order, but Maag would not drop the subject.

His March 31 motion stated that Weber's order "purported to make certain findings of fact, and purported to certify a question for appeal."

Maag asked Ferguson to void everything in Weber's order except what was necessary.

Maag used to work for Lakin but joined Wendler & Ezra prior to the filing of the Yount suit.

Although the Lakin firm continues to send Maag to court on the Yount case, it has cut him out of a class action suit he filed last year as a Lakin attorney.

Maag sued ITI Internet and Moonlight Marketing on behalf of Diane Turner, claiming they took money from her checking account without authorization.

Maag filed all pleadings in the case last year and appeared at a Dec. 21 hearing, but Gerald Walters of the Lakin firm took over the case this year.

Walters filed a Feb. 16 reply to a defense pleading and a March 8 deposition notice. He wrote a March 24 letter asking Circuit Clerk Matt Melucci to continue the case and reset it on the request of the parties.

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