Lakin lawsuit quietly disappears for lack of prosecution

By Steve Korris | Nov 2, 2006

Attorney Rodney Caffey

Once upon a time Tom Lakin's firm could do almost anything Tom Lakin wanted. Now Tom Lakin's firm can't do a thing for Tom Lakin.

The firm has dropped its founder as a client, advising Madison County Circuit Court that "certain differences have arisen" between them.

The task of unloading Lakin fell to Rodney Caffey of the Lakin firm.

In a July 5 affidavit Caffey wrote that their differences made it impossible to continue the attorney client relationship.

He wrote, "These differences cannot be resolved and will not be resolved in the future."

Caffey withdrew the firm from a suit Tom Lakin filed in 2003 against Sandra Zeller, a former employee who briefly rented a home Tom Lakin owned.

The suit claimed Zeller and her children caused $5,000 in damage at 504 Florida Street in Rosewood Heights before he could evict her.

With his suit Lakin filed about 20 eight-inch by 10-inch color photos showing wear, tear and clutter in every room.

He wrote that Zeller let animals live in the house. He wrote that he found mold.

The suit appeared trivial, but it exposed a rupture in relations that would rock Madison County.

This year, Zeller claimed in a lawsuit that Tom Lakin abused her children.

Her charges carried enough weight to merit investigation by a federal grand jury.

Although the investigation has yielded no result, Zeller's allegations have broken Tom Lakin's power.

He nearly brought himself down when he evicted her.

She planned to report him to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Board, but they agreed that he would put off the damage claim and she would not report him.

They agreed that she would take herself to a rehabilitation clinic.

At a hearing Oct. 17, 2003, Lakin told Associate Judge Clarence Harrison he would cover the needs of Zeller's children. Harrison approved the agreement.

In February 2004 Zeller filed a request for admissions "pro se," as her own counsel.

Zeller asked Lakin if he bought a dog, Gizmo, for her daughter Tara. She asked if he told Tara she could not keep Gizmo.

She asked if Kris Lakin, Tom Lakin's son, kicked Tyler's door.

Lakin never answered. Nothing happened in the case until Caffey moved to withdraw the Lakin firm.

Harrison granted the motion July 17 and set an Aug. 8 hearing.

Zeller appeared at the hearing and Lakin did not. Harrison dismissed the suit with prejudice for failure to prosecute. He ordered the clerk to close the file.

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