Lakin-Weiss conflict spreads into Madison County cases

Steve Korris Mar. 13, 2009, 12:23am

Brad Lakin

As Brad Lakin and Paul Weiss awaited a decision on their bitter contest for control of a class action in New Jersey, they started two battles just like it in Edwardsville.

Lakin has moved to disqualify Weiss and his firm, Freed and Weiss of Chicago, from Madison County class actions against Allstate Insurance and H & R Block Tax Services.

Lakin filed an emergency motion in the H & R Block case on March 4, and Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn set a hearing March 17.

In the Allstate case, Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth set a March 24 hearing.

Both motions accuse Weiss of misconduct in settling a class action against telephone company Sprint at federal court in Newark for $17.5 million.

Lakin moved in January to disqualify Weiss in the New Jersey case, claiming Weiss ran a "reverse auction."

A reverse auction happens when competing lawyers file similar class actions against a defendant who settles with the weaker team of lawyers.

Lakin claimed he could have obtained a better settlement in a Madison County class action against Sprint.

Lakin claimed Weiss rushed to settle because he knew the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission would charge him with misconduct relating to sexual harassment allegations against former firm employees.

Lakin sought to block final approval of a settlement that received preliminary approval from U.S. District Judge Jose Linares in December.

Weiss answered by adamantly disputing both the merits of the harassment allegations or that any disciplinary action against him was imminent.
Weiss charged that former Freed and Weiss lawyer Tod Lewis reported him to the ARDC in order to preserve Lakin's control of class actions.

Sprint lawyer Joseph Boyle sided with Weiss.

Boyle wrote that Lakin offered to settle with Sprint for $13.5 million, $4 million less than the proposed settlement obtained by Weiss.

At press time on March 12, Judge Linares had not issued a decision on final approval of the New Jersey class action.

Brad Lakin and his father Tom Lakin teamed with Weiss in 1999.

Together they filed dozens of class actions in Madison County and other venues.

In December 2006, Brad Lakin fired class action lawyer Richard Burke and ended his firm's partnership with Weiss.

Burke began associating with Weiss.

Burke sued Lakin at federal court in East St. Louis, Lakin sued Freed and Weiss in Madison County, and Freed and Weiss sued Lakin in Cook County.

A year later they settled the disputes and resumed cooperation in some cases.

Now the feud has broken out again, at a higher emotional pitch.

Two years ago Lakin and Weiss kept hard feelings out of the public record, but this time they throw stones at each other in front of the world.

In Madison County the poison keeps spreading.

On Feb. 19, American Family Insurance submitted the Allstate disqualification motion to Circuit Judge Daniel Stack in a bid to derail a class action he certified in 2003.

Anthony Martin of St. Louis wrote that "the dispute between class counsel goes directly to the issue of adequacy of class counsel."

More News