Stack says 'no' to review of old report in $20 million case against Illinois Bell

Steve Korris Sep. 11, 2008, 2:00am

Tom Londrigan of Springfield, awaiting a $20 million decision from Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack in a class action against Illinois Bell, failed to excite Stack by suggesting he study everything the Illinois Commerce Commission did 13 years ago.

Stack denied judicial notice of the commission's 1995 docket, which Londrigan tried to offer as context for a portion of the docket Illinois Bell submitted.

Stack turned the tables in a Sept. 2 order, giving Londrigan 14 days to identify any portion of the record that rebuts Illinois Bell's portion.

Stack wrote that he "cannot fathom that the entire record of those proceedings would be material or necessary in arriving at a conclusion."

In April, he held a hearing on opposite motions for summary judgment and took both under advisement.

Londrigan and local lawyers Glenn Bradford and Terrence O'Leary claim Illinois Bell illegally favored the Chicago area in refunding $90 million to customers.

They would leave it up to Illinois Bell to decide whether to pay Downstate customers from company funds or recover the money from Chicago area customers.

Illinois Bell and state legislators crafted the refund to settle claims of anti-competitive practices before the Illinois Commerce Commission, but they didn't settle everything.

In 2003, Big Sky Excavating sued Illinois Bell in Madison County, alleging that the refund violated the Constitution.

Circuit Judge Philip Kardis agreed, finding the law openly beneficial to Illinois Bell.

He certified Big Sky Excavating to represent all who didn't get what they deserved.

Fifth District appeals judges in Mount Vernon reversed Kardis on constitutional grounds and sent the case back to Madison County with the class intact.

Stack picked up the case after Kardis retired.

At Stack's hearing in April he told Londrigan and opponent Theodore Livingston, "This is one of those wonderful cases that's clear as a bell to both of you but not to me."

Stack asked Londrigan, "What about these big businesses, you say, up in Chicago? That's an effective argument down here, I guess, in Madison County."

Stack asked if they would have to pay it back.

Londrigan said, "That's their problem. What they do with their money is up to them."

"If they want to go after those people and suggest that they were in error and paid and they are entitled to a refund, that's their business," Londrigan said.

For Illinois Bell, Livingston said the Illinois Commerce Commission had no problem with the refund.

"The task of determining how to redistribute the amount that was paid to the wrong parties would inherently involve the court in rewriting a tariff and rate making," Livingston said.

After the hearing, Livingston sent Stack a portion of the 1995 docket and asked him to take judicial notice of it.

Stack took notice, prompting Londrigan to deliver the whole docket by way of response.

Stack's order denying notice observed that "this court, in complete agreement with all of the parties, would very much like to have these motions resolved as soon as possible."

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