Respect Precedent

by The Madison County Record |
Aug. 17, 2008, 5:00pm

U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert made a rare and sensible ruling last month in a class action lawsuit filed against Travelers insurance company.

In the suit, plaintiff's lawyer Kevin Hoerner claimed the insurer committed fraud and breach of contract for refusing to pay a chiropractor the fees she demanded. Gilbert looked hard at the case, applied Illinois law, and found neither.

He dismissed the case.

Now it's time for our state courts to follow suit, as often is the custom.

Hoerner and his partner, Richard Burke--a former Lakin firm member and now a sworn enemy of Lakin--have an almost identical lawsuit pending before Judge Andrew Gleeson in St. Clair County. And the Lakins have one as well in Madison County before Judge Dave Hylla.

Under ordinary circumstances, both cases would face being summarily jettisoned from the docket. That's how precedent should work. But what's normal about the Metro-East judiciary?

Hoerner was last seen in Gleeson's court, telling the judge to ignore U.S. Judge Gilbert's ruling. You don't have to listen to Gilbert, Hoerner argued.

Meanwhile, as part of an effort to tube the Lakins' competing Madison County case, Burke was trashing his old employer in a letter to Judge Hylla. It was part of a counterattack, challenging the accusation that he had conspired to steal one of the firm's many, often-recycled chiropractor class action cases--cases he helped concoct during his tenure as Lakin's class action ace.

"I am sorry that I have to write this letter and would just as soon put my association with the Lakin Law Firm behind me; however this sort of dishonesty should not go without response," Burke wrote. "The Lakin Law Firm's tactics of bullying their way through the court system and discrediting everything they are associated with, especially the legal profession, are hopefully coming to an end."

What "end" is he talking about? Because of an ignoble atmosphere here, these locally-spawned class action cases never seem to end.

Judge Gilbert found a way. Is there the will to do so in state court?

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