St. Clair County Associate Judge James Radcliffe, III tossed the salacious civil sexual assault lawsuit against Lakin Law Firm founder Thomas Lakin out of his court and back into the arms of a reluctant, perhaps, venue to the north.
In his bench ruling Thursday morning Radcliffe said the "touchstone" of his decision involved "public issues" which were better resolved in the "local community" of Madison County.
Lakin, as well as his sons Bradley and Kristopher Lakin and the Lakin Law Firm, were originally sued in April 2006 by a former employee and her children under fictitious names and under seal in Madison County. After published reports, the suit was withdrawn at plaintiff's request and later re-filed in St. Clair County.
Agreeing with defense counsel's argument that allegations against Lakin, including sexual abuse of minors, were of an "ongoing course of conduct," Radcliffe without hesitation announced his ruling to a cajoling group of plaintiffs' and defense counsel.
He also based his decision on the fact that most witnesses and parties in the case reside in Madison County.
Lakin's attorney Clyde Kuehn, former appellate court judge, argued the case should be transferred because the volume of plaintiffs, defendants and potential witnesses reside in Madison County.
"An alleged course of misconduct over a period of time is claimed to have occurred entirely within Madison County," Kuehn wrote in a memorandum supporting his motion to transfer based on forum non conveniens.
Plaintiffs' attorney Thomas Q. Keefe of Belleville, who preferred the St. Clair County venue, apparently knew he had lost the battle when Radcliffe cautioned about "getting ahead of himself."
"You've won," Keefe conceded to Kuehn.
Keefe argued that defense counsel did not meet the burden for transfer because plaintiffs have "substantial right to choose forum."
He said, "You're not going to find a judge" in Madison County to take the case, and it would be "impossible" to get an impartial jury in a county where some 150 witnesses may be called.
Revered veteran plaintiff's attorney Rex Carr, helping in the Lakin defense, did not offer a supporting argument until called upon by Radcliffe for comment.
"There is only one connection to St. Clair County--Tom Keefe," Carr said.
The St. Clair County lawsuit was filed June 14.
The suit claims Tom Lakin had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he engaged in oral sex with the minor child, had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he solicited minor females to have sex with the minor plaintiff in his presence, had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he solicited two adult females to have sex with minor plaintiff in his presence, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he solicited the minor plaintiff to have sex with various females while he gratified his own sexual desires by masturbating while watching the minor plaintiff.
Kris Lakin also is accused of childhood sexual abuse against minor plaintiffs.
In Kuehn's memorandum in support for transferring the case, he assails the character of Lakin's former employee, Mary Doe, asserting that Doe--whose nickname was "Hoover"--condoned and encouraged drug use by her children, as well as supplied drugs to a number of the witnesses in the case.
Doe earned the nickname "because of her ability to find and suck up cocaine," the memorandum states. "She kept a platter of it under her bed."
On Aug. 16, a counter lawsuit claiming Brad Lakin, Kris Lakin and the Lakin Law Firm were victims of a $50 million extortion scheme was dismissed in Madison County by Judge Daniel Stack.
The counter-suit claimed that the individuals and their attorney (Ed Unsell) who filed a civil sexual assault lawsuit against Lakin Law Firm founder Thomas Lakin, his firm and sons, attempted to leverage a $50 million cash settlement.