Chicago attorneys Eric Freed and Paul Weiss have started filing class actions in competition with their former teammates at the Lakin Law Firm.
Charles Chapman, representing the Lakins at an Aug. 23 hearing, said Freed and Weiss filed at least 11 class actions since the firms split up.
He did not say where they filed the suits.
He accused them of improperly using Lakin files to build competing cases.
He told Associate Judge Richard Tognarelli that in at least three new cases Freed and Weiss violated protective orders of Madison County judges.
Chapman said Freed and Weiss should return everything they kept.
He said, "They have no right to any of these materials."
He said, "They certainly should not be filing competing cases using materials subject to a protective order on cases in which they have been fired."
The Lakins teamed with Freed and Weiss from 1999 through last year.
When they split, Richard Burke left the Lakins and opened his own office in association with Freed and Weiss.
The Lakins sued Freed and Weiss in Madison County, Burke sued the Lakins in U.S. district court at East St. Louis, Freed and Weiss sued the Lakins in Cook County, and the Lakins countersued Burke.
In March the Lakins dropped Freed and Weiss from most of the cases they filed together.
At first Freed and Weiss resisted termination, but in May they withdrew.
They reserved the right to seek remedies in court.
They found another remedy in the free market, where they can undercut the Lakins in settlements with insurers and lenders.
At Tognarelli's hearing, Chapman moved for sanctions against Freed and Weiss for violating protective orders.
For Freed and Weiss, Karen Levine of Chicago said courts that entered the protective orders should deal with any violations of the orders.
She said work product belongs to the attorney, not the client.
Chapman said, "They are in violation of the protective order at a minimum and to the extent that they are using those in competing cases, they may be having further difficulties."
For Freed and Weiss, Michael Nester of Belleville said, "All of a sudden miraculously appears another issue that we have never discussed before."
He said, "Due process would not permit this to occur."
Chapman said, "They have known since day one – Well, not day one. They have known since they received the termination letters, which is months ago, that that stuff should have been returned."
Tognarelli said, "I am bothered by the beginning of paragraph five where it does say, upon information and belief."
He said, "Let them either admit or deny whether or not they have returned all copies to you."
He denied sanctions.
He said, "But I would agree that use of that information would violate rules of professional conduct and if we have to revisit the issue on sanctions, I am not opposed to issuing such an order."
Levine said, "Would you allow briefing on whether or not it does violate the rules of professional conduct?"
Tognarelli said, "Absolutely."