Lakin class action muscle softening

Steve Korris Feb. 1, 2007, 3:30am

Former Lakin Law Firm attorney Richard Burke claims the firm can no longer handle class action litigation, and the attorneys he left behind apparently agree.

After a long reign as the number one class action firm in the nation's number one class action courthouse, the Lakin firm has retreated from the field.

Lakin attorneys settled a few class action claims for modest payouts last year while letting dozens of others gather dust on Madison County courthouse shelves.

In December Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian awarded the Lakin firm $2,730,000 in three class actions that the firm settled.

That worked out to less than a million per claim, a paltry return by Lakin standards.

In January the firm accepted a confidential amount for settling a class action after discovering they did not have enough plaintiffs to create a class.

The firm began 2007 with few prospects for better results. Now the firm has fired Burke, who regarded himself as its top class action attorney.

Last April the Lakin firm lost the leader of its class action team, Gary Peel, after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography.

Prior to that Thomas Maag, who had signed many Lakin class action complaints, left the firm and joined Brian Wendler's firm.

When Peel departed he withdrew from 46 Lakin class actions. Nine months later, the firm actively pursues only one of those cases.

In that case, plaintiff Todd Morgan claims Countrywide Mortgage charged excessive fees when closing a home loan.

Countrywide moved last year for summary judgment. Circuit Judge Dave
Hylla has set a March 27 hearing on the motion.

Another mortgage fee case, Stevens v. Fifth Third Bank, sat idle until someone noticed that in 2005 retired Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis set it for jury trial Dec. 11, 2006.

The parties agreed Dec. 8 to continue the trial.

The bank has moved to dismiss. Hylla set a March 29 hearing on the motion.

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