Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth imposed a $20,000 sanction on Houston lawyer Andrew Schirrmeister III for practicing in Illinois without disclosing that a Texas court imposed a $10,000 sanction on him.
On July 17 Ruth directed Schirrmeister to pay $20,000 to Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation in Alton.
Schirrmeister and colleague Jim Ezer of Houston had already withdrawn as defense counsel to DuPont chemical company in a benzene exposure suit.
"Mr. Schirrmeister has shown a disregard for our justice system, those served by it, and the other litigants in this case," Ruth wrote.
A lawyer wishing to practice in a state where he lacks a license must apply for admission "pro hac vice," meaning for this case only.
An application requires disclosure of sanctions, but Schirrmeister didn't disclose.
DuPont faces sanctions heavier than $20,000, for Ruth invited plaintiffs and other defendants to submit bills for any extra work Schirrmeister created.
On July 30 Gordon Maag of Breese, representing the estate of Kent Herzog, submitted a bill for $75,739.02 in fees and expenses.
Maag, a former appellate court judge, charged $300 an hour for more than 200 hours.
"This was not a routine discovery dispute or an argument over whether a pleading should be made more specific," he wrote.
"It involved lengthy, complex and exhaustive research and investigation," he wrote.
He billed $1,287 for two auto trips from Cottondale, Ala., to Edwardsville.
As of Aug. 11 Ruth had not received bills from defendants Superglue Corporation, Savogran Company, Wilsonart Inc., WD-40 Company, Trim-Tex Inc., RPM Wood Finishes Group, Do It Best Corporation, W. M. Barr and Company, Henkel Loctite Corporation, Sovereign Specialty Chemicals, Sunnyside Corporation, Glidden Company and Franklin International.
Maag didn't obtain the strongest sanction he sought, which would have granted judgment on DuPont's liability.
Ruth decided that Maag overstated his case at a May 7 hearing.
"Plaintiffs have mischaracterized what happened in Texas," Ruth wrote.
Maag said at the hearing that Schirrmeister's applications to practice in other states were "artfully worded untruths."
Maag said, "If he did it in Georgia and he did it in Arkansas and he did it in Illinois and he did it in all these places we have found – and believe me, we worked really hard to find them – then how can he say it was inadvertent here?"
He said, "That man has run around the country weaving the same bunch of lies and deception."
He said Schirrmeister should have reported that Texas regulators disciplined him, but Ruth decided that sanctions were different from discipline.
Though Maag's reasoning didn't impress Ruth, neither did Schirrmeister's claim that his inadvertent mistakes required no sanction.
Ruth wrote that he willfully disregarded a rule holding that an attorney's signature certifies that a document is well grounded in fact to the best of his knowledge.
Ruth wrote that "no reasonable attorney could have read question eleven and not know that it required Mr. Schirrmeister to report the sanction."
He wrote that the matter unduly burdened litigants and the court and delayed resolution of other matters in the case.
"None of this would have occurred had Mr. Schirrmeister taken just two minutes to read and review the pro hac vice application he signed," he wrote.
Belleville lawyers Charles Joley and Kenneth Nussbaumer, who represented DuPont and vouched for Schirrmeister and Ezer, also withdrew from the case.
In place of the departed lawyers, James O'Brien and David Coffman of Lewis, Rice and Fingersh have entered appearances on DuPont's behalf.