Chicago defendant's epitaph is emblem to Madison County's stretch

By Steve Korris | May 16, 2006

Chicago attorney Robert Mitchell died with a Madison County class action lawsuit hanging over him in a deal that had nothing to do with Madison County.

Three investors sued Mitchell five years ago for representing a Chicago nonprofit board that bought nursing homes 10 years ago.

Al Kellerman of Monroe County, Lillard Hedden of Peoria, and Frank Crabtree of Ada, Okla., claimed Mitchell knew that broker Marion Bass Securities misrepresented the deal in its prospectus.

The investors named Marion Bass as lead defendant.

They also sued Malachi Corporation, buyer of the nursing homes, and its seven board members.

They also sued counsel for Marion Bass, bond counsel, an accounting firm and two banks that acted as bond trustees.

And, they also sued management company owner Reynolds Banks and eight other persons, claiming Malachi improperly used its charitable status for the benefit of the Banks group.

They claimed Malachi intended to let Banks comingle funds and divert them.

Plaintiff attorney J. William Lucco of Edwardsville wrote that his clients suffered from losing a stream of promised payments.

He moved to certify them as representatives of a plaintiff class.

Mitchell's insurer retained attorney Joe McDonnell of Swansea to represent him.

In 2003, Mitchell and other defendants asked Circuit Judge Daniel Stack to order more definite statements against them.

In 2004, Stack granted Lucco leave to amend the complaint.

The new complaint accused Mitchell of violating the Illinois Securities Act.

McDonnell responded that Mitchell denied knowledge of misrepresentation. He wrote that Mitchell did not understand the other allegations.

He wrote that the Illinois Securities Act cannot apply to an attorney.

Last October, Mitchell joined other defendants in moving to dismiss or transfer on grounds of forum non conveniens.

An Illinois court can dismiss on a forum motion and grant leave to file in another state, or transfer a case to another Illinois county.

Lucco answered that Mitchell "ignores the interest that every citizen of Madison County has in enforcing Illinois's laws against fraud and conspiracy."

With that epitaph engraved in the record, Mitchell died Feb. 13.

McDonnell called Mitchell a secondary character and said he was never deposed.

He said Mitchell had no connection to Madison County and added, "Nobody in the case had any connection with Madison County."

McDonnell said he kept Mitchell up to date with phone calls but never met him.

He said Mitchell was a gracious person who did a lot of pro bono work.

Stack has not ruled on the forum motion.

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