Maag's arbitration block turned down again by Fifth

Steve Korris Jun. 29, 2006, 10:48am

Thomas Maag's second attempt to block arbitration of a proposed class action suit at the Fifth District appellate court looked exactly like his first attempt to Fifth District judges.

In a June 14 mandate, Judge Melissa Chapman wrote, "As we revisit this case, we ask, What has changed since the last appeal?"

Chapman wrote, "In answer to our own question, nothing has changed. The plaintiffs were ordered to arbitrate the case. They have not done so."

The mandate affirmed Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian in staying the suit pending arbitration.

Maag sued AT&T in 2002, proposing to certify Sandra Ragan and Dennis Mangiaracino as representatives of a plaintiff class.

Maag alleged that AT&T inflated charges for a "universal service fund" that the Federal Communications Commission required communication companies to support. The fund subsidizes telecommunications in poor neighborhoods, rural areas, schools, and libraries.

Maag claimed AT&T charged more than the fund needed and secretly kept the difference.

He filed the suit as a member of the Lakin Law Firm.

AT&T moved to compel arbitration by the American Arbitration Association.

Maag opposed arbitration, arguing that AT&T's consumer services agreement improperly prohibited class arbitration.

Matoesian denied the motion and AT&T appealed.

The Fifth District entered an order in March 2005, compelling arbitration and staying the suit.

The Fifth District ruled that the ban on class arbitration was not unconscionable.

Maag still insisted on class arbitration. The association refused.
Maag asked Matoesian to lift the stay. Maag then served a subpoena on the association, seeking documents and depositions.

The association did not cooperate, and Maag moved to compel its cooperation.

Matoesian ruled last August that because of the Fifth District opinion, he lacked jurisdiction to hear Maag's motions. Maag appealed again.

In the Fifth District opinion, Chapman wrote, "The AAA is absolutely not refusing to arbitrate the case."

He wrote, "Additionally, we note that the AAA is not a party to this litigation and although the plaintiffs liken the AAA to a respondent in discovery, the AAA has not been afforded that status. Consequently, the trial court did not have any jurisdiction over the AAA."

Judges Richard Goldenhersh and Terrance Hopkins concurred.

Although Maag left the Lakin firm months ago, Fifth District clerk Louis Costa sent the mandate to the Lakin firm because Maag had not informed the court of his departure.

Confusion over his affiliation has persisted also at the Madison County courthouse.

Maag sent Circuit Clerk Matt Melucci a letter June 22, listing 11 class action suits he litigated at the Lakin firm.

Maag wrote, "I am no longer associated with the Lakin Law Firm, and as such any documents which would have been forwarded to me regarding the above cases should be forwarded to Richard Burke at the Lakin Law Firm."

Maag wrote, "Thanks you for your cooperation in this matter."

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