Open secret Lakin-Weiss hearings

The Madison County Record Apr. 4, 2009, 11:32am

At least class action buddies-turned-nemeses Brad Lakin and Paul Weiss are consistent.

When advising plaintiffs they recruit, both insist they take their nickel-and-dime disputes to court.

That's opposed to a cheaper, quicker, less combative private approach like arbitration. In big fee hunting class action circles, the "a-word" is profane.

So Lakin and Weiss didn't arbitrate, but chose the Madison County Circuit Court to resolve their disputes with one another. They were recently before Judge Dennis Ruth, casting stones at one another in a manner similar to what they often do to corporate targets.

The back-and-forth has to be embarrassing. The petty sniping about who deserves custody of the class action cases they created together has taken on a mercenary tone of disputing, greedy rabble rousers. That's quite different from the preferred label of consumer justice warriors "fighting for us."

Let's not forget: lawyers aren't supposed to initiate lawsuits. Plaintiffs are. Yet as they negotiate their law business divorce, Lakin and Weiss mention the clients so infrequently it's as if they don't exist.

For the people of Madison County, whose justice system these men have used for a decade to build their class action machine, this open air vetting has been valuable. The taxpayers deserve to know what's behind this questionable lawsuit machine that some say has tarnished our communities' good name.

And who better to tell us than the protagonists themselves, in their own combative words, spelled out in the public record of our taxpayer-funded courts.

That was the case until March 24. Deep into the proceedings, Judge Ruth suddenly decided the dispute is for his eyes and ears only. At that March hearing he spared Lakin and Weiss further public embarrassment and ruled they could spar in secret, in his private chambers.

This is unacceptable, Judge Ruth.

If Lakin and Weiss want a private resolution of their issues with one another, they have plenty of legal options. But they chose to use our taxpayer-funded courts to settle their disputes.

They should fight it out in open court in front of the taxpayers who pay for the justice system that must endure this money and power clash of egocentric personalities.

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