Mendelsohn is often judge of last resort

By Steve Korris | Feb 23, 2005

Judge Ralph Mendelsohn

For class action lawsuits, Madison County often needs all the judges it can find.

Any party to a suit can move once to substitute a judge without a reason. In a case with many plaintiffs and many defendants, substitutions can eliminate all the judges who normally try civil cases.

One case ran through seven judges in seven months.

Many hand-me-down cases wind up on the bench of Associate Circuit Judge Ralph Mendelsohn. He has certified three suits as class actions since 2003.

Last July, he certified Barbara Sales and Donald Braddy as class representatives in a suit against Intel and Hewlett Packard. The plaintiffs charged in 2002 that Intel deceived the public about the performance of Pentium 4 microprocessors.

The case took more than a year to reach Mendelsohn, as attorneys moved to substitute for circuit judges Andy Matoesian, Phillip Kardis, George Moran and Nicholas Byron.

Plaintiffs proposed a national class based on California law, but Mendelsohn defined the class as all buyers of Pentium 4s or computers with Pentium 4s who reside in Illinois or bought the product in Illinois, and who are personal, family or household users.

Neither side welcomed the decision. Plaintiffs and defendants jointly asked Mendelsohn to certify for immediate appeal the question of possible error. He certified it and stayed the case pending appellate review.

Last March, Mendelsohn certified Buddy Wayne Snyder and Anthony Chronis as class representatives in a suit charging that Sprint Spectrum lacked a reasonable basis for claims about its PCS wireless telephone service.

The case started in Judge Moran's court in 2000. Substitution bounced it to Kardis but in 2003, he recused himself. The case briefly bounced to Byron, but another substitution gave it to Mendelsohn.

Within three months, Mendelsohn brought the plaintiff's motion for class certification to a hearing. His certification order noted that the class might include more than a million present and former Sprint subscribers in Illinois.

Eighteen months ago, Mendelsohn certified Lorie Marshall and Debra Ramirez as class representatives in a suit challenging a fee that H & R Block charged for "peace of mind." Alleging that the tax preparation firm sold insurance without a license, plaintiffs charge unfair trade, statutory fraud and common law breach of fiduciary duty.

The case started in 2002, in Matoesian's court. Substitutions moved it to Circuit Judge Daniel Stack and then to Mendelsohn.

H & R Block moved last year for permission to offer its clients individual agreements resolving the matter. Plaintiffs objected but Mendelsohn granted the motion.

Mendelsohn has not set a trial date for any of these suits.

One of a cluster of suits over stock trades reached him in September, after substitutions removed Matoesian, Moran, Byron and Kardis.

In it, T. K. Parthasarathy charges that T. Rowe Price International Funds and its advisers failed to adjust domestic stock values to account for foreign trades. Mendelsohn ordered a status conference in April.

Another class claim has belonged to Mendelsohn from the start.

As an associate, he hears suits over small amounts. The claim Timothy Rogers filed against Tyson Foods in 2001 falls into that category. Rogers charges that Tyson's prepackaged chicken holds too much water. His class definition covers 33 states. Discovery continues.

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