Burke apologizes to court for bad memory

Steve Korris Sep. 7, 2007, 6:59am

Richard Burke

Attorney Richard Burke, representing the city of Fairview Heights, denied at an Aug. 29 hearing that a discovery dispute existed between him and opposing attorneys. But before the day ended he admitted it.

Burke penned a letter of apology to U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson explaining that he forgot about a letter he had written six days earlier.

He wrote that he remembered the dispute immediately upon leaving the courthouse.

Wilkerson can accept the apology or follow through on his declaration at the hearing that if a dispute existed he would drive to Springfield and report Burke to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

At the hearing Wilkerson bristled at attorney Paul Chronis of Chicago for challenging Burke's statement.

Chronis represents Chicago-based Orbitz, which sells hotel rooms, airline tickets and rental cars over the internet.

Fairview Heights sued Orbitz and other web-based travel retailers in 2005, claiming they cheated on taxes for hotel rooms.

Burke and attorney Kevin Hoerner seek to certify Fairview Heights as class representative of 50 Illinois cities that the online companies have allegedly cheated.

Wilkerson held the hearing on a motion of the city to quash depositions of city council members.

After arguments over the depositions, Chronis brought up a discovery dispute.

Burke said there was no dispute.

Chronis said there was a dispute, but Wilkerson said he would take Burke at his word.

The hearing ended around 3 p.m.

Burke then composed a "Notice to the Court."

"I represented to the Court that I was unaware of any discovery disputes and that plaintiff had provided to the defendants the documents and other discovery materials defendant had requested," he wrote.

"Immediately upon leaving the courthouse I recalled that on June 17, 2007, defendant Orbitz filed their first request for production of documents and first interrogatories on plaintiff."

He wrote that on July 17 the city responded, and the responses contained objections.

He wrote that on Aug. 16, Orbitz attorney Elizabeth Herrington responded to the objections.

"On Aug. 23, 2007, I responded to Ms. Herrington in writing concerning the objections made and represented that I believed the objections were in good faith," he wrote.

"There were disagreements in the past concerning production of documents by the city to defendants and I believe that everything in the city's possession had been provided and that the matter was resolved.

"When discussing the matter in court today it is these prior disputes that I had in mind when making my responses to the court.

"When discussing the matter in court today I had forgotten about the recent document request and interrogatories by Orbitz, the objections we had filed, and the correspondence exchanged.

"For this I apologize and I am available for a telephone conference to resolve this dispute."

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