The lawsuit that won't stay dead

The Madison County Record Mar. 6, 2011, 8:10am

Stephen Tillery doesn't like deadlines except when he does.

In 2008, in a suit against computer manufacturer Dell Inc., Tillery filed an appeal challenging Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis' rule limiting plaintiffs in a class action to a single substitution of a judge, but the Fifth District Court of Appeals dismissed his motion on the grounds that it was filed a day passed the deadline.

Later that same year, Tillery missed a deadline in another case, his $10 billion class action against cigarette maker Philip Morris.

Tillery sued Philip Morris in 2000, claiming it violated state consumer fraud law in marketing "light" and "low tar" cigarettes. Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron certified a class of three million smokers, held a bench trial in 2003, and awarded Tillery the full $10 billion he'd asked for. The award included $1.8 billion in fees for Tillery and his associates.

Philip Morris petitioned for direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. On Dec. 15, 2005, the Justices ruled that state consumer law excluded the claim. Tillery filed a motion, unsuccessfully, for rehearing, and then unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

On Dec. 5, 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a mandate to Judge Byron, who signed an order dismissing the case on Dec. 18, 2006, and exactly two years later, Tillery moved for relief from the order.

Claiming that the statutory two-year limit for appeal started running on Dec. 5, 2006, when the Illinois Supreme Court reversed Byron's decision, Philip Morris successfully moved to dismiss Tillery's petition because he missed the deadline.

Tillery appealed that decision and managed to convince Fifth District Appeals Judges Melissa Chapman, Bruce Stewart, and James Wexstten that the limit should have extended from Dec. 18, 2006, the date of Byron's order, until Dec. 18, 2008 -- the day Tillery filed his last day--rather than two-week late--motion.

So, Tillery's $10 billion, 11-year quest for jackpot justice drags on as his questionable case continues to clog our courts while a trio of kindly judges consider arguments and read case law concerning which deadline is the appropriate deadline and what future deadlines are for filing motions about deadlines and other weighty matters.

This courthouse activity is paid for with your taxpayer dollars for which there are no deadlines.

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U.S. Supreme Court
1 First St NE
Washington, DC 20543

Illinois Supreme Court
200 E Capitol Ave
Springfield, IL 62701

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