EAST ST. LOUIS – Although attorney Stephen Tillery concedes his motion to certify a class action against a Citigroup Inc. subsidiary triggered its removal from Madison County to U.S. district court, he seeks to punish Citigroup for removing it.
In a single document, Tillery volunteers to rewrite the motion so federal jurisdiction won't apply while alleging that Citigroup lacked a reasonable basis for removal.
His associate Stephen Swedlow offered both arguments in a June 26 remand motion.
He wrote that removal "only serves the purpose of avoidance, hindrance and delay," and moved for an order requiring Citigroup to pay fees Tillery incurred through removal.
Tillery clients Cassandra Williams, Charles Kinworthy and Judith Kinworthy claim the former ABN AMRO Mortgage Group improperly held their payments in suspense.
Tillery filed the suit in 2005, before the national Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) took effect, but according to ABN AMRO he turned it into a new suit this year by adding parties.
He doesn't dispute that.
"Plaintiffs do not oppose revising the class definition to make clear that they are not bringing claims against ABN AMRO for the actions of other entities based on loans that were not either originated or serviced by ABN AMRO," Swedlow wrote.
"Had ABN AMRO made this argument in opposition to class certification, Plaintiffs would have agreed to amend the proposed class definition if necessary in order to clarify its scope," he wrote.
"In fact, Plaintiffs agree that without more there is no basis in law for seeking recovery from ABN AMRO if ABN AMRO had no involvement with the loan," he wrote.
"To the extent that Plaintiffs' certification motion was inartfully or over-expansively drafted, Plaintiffs do not oppose clarifying it," he wrote.
"At no point did Plaintiffs intend to certify a class against defendants other than those named in the First Amended Complaint," he wrote.
"This case should be remanded for that process to take place," Swedlow wrote.
For CitiGroup, Robert Bassett of Donovan, Rose, Nester and Joley in Belleville opposed remand on Aug. 1.
"Plaintiffs confess that they did not really mean what they said in their motion for class certification," Bassett wrote.
"In what clearly was a hurried effort to get a complaint on file the last day before CAFA took effect, Plaintiffs failed to include in their original complaint a class definition and did not define the term 'class members' that is used throughout the complaint," he wrote.
"In this case, Plaintiffs never proposed a class definition in their original complaint or the first amended complaint," he wrote.
"Thus, when Plaintiffs filed their motion, they were not seeking to amend their complaint because there was no definition to amend," he wrote.
Removal jurisdiction is measured as of the date of removal, he wrote, "not on modifications of the state court record after removal."
Tillery's remand motion precludes him from ever asserting any claims against ABN AMRO Mortgage Group's parents, subsidiaries or affiliates, Bassett wrote.