Peel wants Weber disqualified from hearing class action

By Steve Gonzalez | Jan 11, 2006

Gary Peel

Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron

The Lakin Law Firm has filed a petition for substitution of judge in a class action case, Katherine Lee Henderson v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, because the Wood River plaintiff's firm represented a client that sued Circuit Judge Don Weber in 1992.

Weber, appointed by the Supreme Court in September, took over the docket handled by now-retired Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis.

In the motion dated Jan. 5, Gary Peel of the Lakin Law Firm, states that his firm represented Linda Condray who sued Weber for using a rare photo of child killer Paula Sims for personal profit.

Weber, former Madison County State's Attorney, successfully prosecuted Sims. The photo taken by Condray, which was introduced into evidence, was the only known picture of Sims with her children.

Weber went on to publish a book called Precious Victims detailing the events of the case.

The suit filed by Condray claimed that the same photograph that Weber introduced as evidence appeared on the front cover illustration of his book. She claimed Weber was liable for damages for misappropriating her rights to the photograph

Weber settled with Condray in September 1992 for $25,000.

In Peel's motion for a new judge, he states, "Although Weber initially denied any liability, he eventually extended an offer of judgment of $25,000 to the Lakin Firm's client who accepted the offer."

Peel also writes, "A judge's duty is to hear and decide, impartially and fairly, the case assigned to him without giving even the appearance of having been influenced or biased."

"Thus, the objective appearance of bias or prejudice is a ground for disqualifying a judge from hearing a cause."

Peel also states that Illinois Court Rules and Procedures require a judge to disqualify himself where his impartiality to a party their lawyer might reasonably be questioned.

Sims was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of obstructing justice, and one count of concealing homicide on Feb. 2, 1990.

Sims killed her 13-day-old daughter Loralei Marie in June 1986 while living in Jersey County.

In April 1989, Sims, who then lived in Alton, killed her 6-week-old daughter, Heather Lee.

Sims originally told authorities that both of the children were kidnapped, but the trash bag that Heather Lee was found dead in was manufactured within seconds of and by the same machine as the bags found in the Sims' Alton home.

The case filed by Katherine Lee Henderson of Alton, alleges Wells Fargo charged her a $1,101.50 loan discount fee, but failed to lower the interest rate in exchange for the fee.

She claims that Wells Fargo should not be permitted to keep the loan discount fee it collected since it did not lower interest rates for that fee.

Henderson claims Wells Fargo intended to create the impression that it had reduced the interest rate in exchange for the fee, and engaged in deceptive practices by concealing the fact that it did not reduce interest rates in exchange for the fee they charged.

Henderson also claims that had she known that Wells Fargo would not have reduced rates in exchange for the fee, and it was just simply another source of profit; she would have refused to pay the fee or would have sought alternative financing.

The day Peel filed the motion, Weber was going to hear a motion to dismiss the case which was filed by Wells Fargo, but before the hearing Peel filed the motion.

Pursuant to Illinois statute, Weber sent the case to Chief Judge Edward Ferguson for assignment to another judge to hear Peel's motion.

Ferguson assigned Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron to only hear the motion for a new judge.

In addition to Peel, Henderson also is represented by Bradley Lakin, Gerald Walters and Paul Marks all of the Lakin Firm in Wood River. Timothy Campbell of Godfrey and Phil Bock, Paul Weiss and Tod Lewis of Chicago also represent Henderson.

Robert Schultz and Joseph Whyte of Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen in Edwardsville represent Wells Fargo.

Mark Blocker and Michael Andolina of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood also represent Wells Fargo.

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Organizations in this Story

Heyl Royster Wells Fargo & Company

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