East St. Louis attorney Rex Carr has been ordered to pay his former law partners $635,000 as a sanction for "out of control" behavior related to numerous lawsuits he has filed against them.
Carr also is forbidden from filing any more lawsuits in any court against former law partners Stephen Tillery, Steven Katz and Douglas Sprong, according to an order signed March 30 by U.S. District Judge David Herndon.
"Of the many unpleasant tasks a federal district judge is called upon to perform, disciplining the attorneys who practice before him or her is among the most disagreeable," Herndon wrote in the order, "but the time has come to bring Carr back under control."
Carr can appeal Herndon's order.
Carr has been fighting with his ex-partners from the former Carr Korein and Tillery LLC law firm over fees he claims he's owed from the firm's cases.
His suits have sought up to $40 million in compensatory and other damages.
Carr Korein and Tillery dissolved in 2003 and since then Carr has filed at least eight lawsuits over the fees including one filed this year in Missouri.
The March 30 injunction means the end of the Missouri case.
In his suits, Carr has asserted claims against the three attorneys under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). He has also alleged conspiracy.
Carr first sued his old partners in 2004, filing two Illinois state court suits. Those cases were dismissed with prejudice when the cases settled.
That did not end the lawsuits, Herndon wrote.
"When the parties reached a settlement agreement, the ink was not yet dry on the agreement when Carr repudiated it, claiming the settlement (which Carr had drafted himself) was procured by fraud," the order reads.
In 2007, Carr sued Tillery, Katz and Sprong again, doubling his filings to four new suits.
Meanwhile, he filed the case before the federal court and later dismissed the four 2004 state court filings.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois dismissed the federal case for failure to state a claim for relief.
It held that the suit was precluded by Carr's previous lawsuits.
It denied a motion to sanction Carr.
Carr then appealed the federal suit's dismissal. Tillery and the other defendants filed a cross appeal asking the court to reconsider the sanctions issue.
Carr had already been sanctioned by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to the tune of $23,000 for bringing what it decided was a frivolous appeal.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the suit's dismissal. However, it sent it back to Herndon for reconsideration of the sanctions.
The Seventh Circuit appellate court called Carr's suits "an abuse of the patience of the courts."
According to Herndon's order, it also called the suits against Carr's former partners "very weak," "feeble," and "desperate."
The court also chastised Carr's lawyers for allowing their client to continue pursuing the cases, calling him "out of control."
Herndon got the case back in January.
The March order upholds the appeals court's finding that Carr filed his suit in bad faith, noting his past history.
"It does not appear that Carr learned anything to speak of from being sanctioned approximately $23,000," Herndon wrote. "It appears further that Carr has not learned anything from this case either."
The order awards the defendant attorneys' fees as a sanction.
Herndon reduced the $1,439,913.71 requested as attorneys' fees by more than $800,000.
The reduction includes about $259,000 in legal bills the defendants paid to Jenner & Block LLP of Chicago for work on the appeal in the federal case and $186,000 to Belleville attorney Robert Sprague for work done on appeal, according to the defendants' billing records.
In addition to awarding the defendants' their attorney fees, Herndon granted their request for an injunction barring their former colleague from suing them again.
"Despite the drubbing he received in this Court and in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, he continues to insist on his right to sue his ex-partners over the same stale claims that were laid to rest in this case," Herndon notes in the order. "Under the circumstances of this case, the Court believes that an appropriate injunction is one that bars Carr from pursuing any legal claim in any forum, federal or state, regarding the claims raised in this case."
Carr and the defendants had partnered to pursue a number of high profile class action cases in Madison and St. Clair counties.
Currently, Tillery is a partner with Korein Tillery of St. Louis. He is leading a number of class actions suits, including six cases in Madison County over alleged atrazine contamination.
Sprong and Katz are also with Tillery's St. Louis firm.
According to Carr's Web site, he holds three records in the Guinness Book of World Records: longest civil jury trial in 1988, world's largest libel verdict in 1981 and world's largest personal injury jury verdict in 1976.