Hylla denies reconsideration in Country Mutual stay; chides dueling attorneys

Steve Korris Aug. 15, 2008, 12:14am



As attorney Richard Burke and his former employers at the Lakin Law Firm start bickering again, Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla steps in as the grownup.

Hylla signed an order in Burke's favor after a hearing on Aug. 4, but he offered little advantage to Burke and no comfort to either side.

Instead, Hylla suggested they resolve their disputes in someone else's forum.

Last year, after Burke left the Lakins and a partnership between the Lakins and Paul Weiss of Chicago ended, the lawyers battled in three courts for fees and damages.

After U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert of Benton warned them that other firms would bump them all from class actions, they announced settlement of their disputes.

They didn't settle every dispute, however, for now they argue over competing class actions against Country Mutual Insurance in St. Clair and Madison counties.

Chiropractor Kathleen Roche filed the St. Clair County suit, and chiropractor Richard Coy filed the Madison County suit.

Hylla imposed a stay on Coy's case, and the Lakins moved for reconsideration.

Charles Chapman, representing the Lakins, argued that Hylla should not defer to the St. Clair County case because Burke conspired to take it away from the Lakins.

On Aug. 1, in a letter to Hylla, Burke called Chapman's statements completely false.

"Normally I would expect Mr. Chapman to have more integrity than to make such an outrageous claim," Burke wrote, "but apparently he has come to believe as though anything is justified."

"There was never any 'conspiracy' and Mr. Chapman should know better," Burke wrote.

"The Lakin Law Firm's tactics of bullying their way through the court system and discrediting everything they are associated with, especially the legal profession, are hopefully coming to an end.

"I am sorry that I have to write this letter and would just as soon put my association with the Lakin Law Firm behind me; however this sort of dishonesty should not go without response."

Hylla heard the motion to reconsider Aug. 4. The Record has ordered a transcript.

Hylla denied reconsideration Aug. 7.

His order allows Roche's suit to proceed in St. Clair County, without Burke's name on it but with his prints all over it.

"It has not been made clear to this court exactly who represents the plaintiff in the Roche case," Hylla wrote.

Kevin Hoerner paid the filing fee, he added.

"The Court can only assume that Paul Weiss and Richard Burke are involved in the Roche case based on plaintiff's motion and the fact that Burke attended the hearing on the motion to reconsider," Hylla

Hylla rejected Chapman's argument that both cases can proceed because they aren't the same.

"Indeed, it would be hard to argue that attorney Burke conspired to take a case from the Lakin Law Firm if that case were different from the case at bar," Hyllas wrote.

If the Roche case isn't handled properly, he wrote, Coy can move to lift the stay.

"The evidence presented thus far is neither clear nor convincing," he wrote.

If the Lakins feel best suited to represent the class in Roche or that Burke conspired to take the case from them, he wrote, "…they may seek their remedies in the proper forum and through the proper proceedings."

St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson presides over Roche's suit.

On Aug. 6, Gleeson heard a motion from Country Mutual to dismiss Roche's suit. The judge took it under advisement and had not reached a decision as of Aug. 14.

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