St. Clair County taxpayers hired an outsider to clean up a mess their judges made with beer but the outsider has inside connections.
Attorney Randy Patchett of Marion, special prosecutor assigned to investigate the DUI arrest of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young, used to help the Lakin Law Firm file class action lawsuits in Madison County.
Patchett in 2001 attached his name to the roster of plaintiff's counsel in eight or nine class action complaints of the Lakin firm.
On each complaint his name appeared below a more prestigious Marion attorney in the Lakin class action club -- Patricia Murphy, wife of U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy.
Patrick Murphy represented Patchett in 1995 after he was charged with DUI in Williamson County.
Patricia Murphy and Patchett bailed out of the Lakin cases together too, though she did it properly and he did not.
Picking up one of the loose threads last year, Patchett withdrew from a Lakin case that everyone else had settled and closed.
Patricia Murphy preceded Patchett in the rush for Madison County riches, but not by that name.
In April 2000, as Patricia Littleton, she signed a class action complaint in Madison County Circuit Court against Progressive Premier Insurance.
She moved to certify Rick Kelly of Hartford as representative of a class of drivers whose vehicles Progressive Premier repaired with inferior parts.
Around the same time she and other attorneys filed a similar class action against State Farm at Williamson County Courthouse in Marion. That suit would eventually reach the Illinois Supreme Court.
Soon after she married Patrick Murphy she changed her name.
Something about her class action changed too. Four days after she sent a name change notice to Madison County, she withdrew as class counsel.
She never signed another class action complaint in Madison County, but in 2001 she placed her name on eight or nine Lakin class action complaints.
Patchett's name also appeared on the complaints.
Circuit clerk staff on Dec. 28 could not find one complaint on short notice.
The other eight listed Patricia Murphy and Patchett.
The complaints alleged that insurers conspired with software vendor CCC Information Services to cheat drivers on accident claims.
In April 2002 Patricia Murphy withdrew from all the cases.
In May 2002 Patchett requested copies of files in three cases. For a few months after that he received notices in some cases.
Then he faded from the record.
The Lakin firm filed four more class action complaints over CCC software in 2002 and 2003, without Patricia Murphy or Patchett.
In 2005, the Lakin firm settled 10 of the 13 cases.
Chief Judge Edward Ferguson consolidated them and assigned them to Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn.
Mendelsohn approved the package in December 2005.
On March 16, 2006, Patchett moved to withdraw from one of the cases Mendelsohn closed. Although his name had always appeared as Randy Patchett, he withdrew as John R. Patchett.
He moved to strike his name from the record.
Mendelsohn signed an order March 20, striking Patchett's name from the record.
The Williamson County case that Murphy helped to file, Avery v. State Farm, resulted in a Supreme Court decision that knocked out the props from under class action litigation in Illinois.
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