Madison - St. Clair Record

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Lawyers in Hale v. State Farm wrangle over confidential documents

By The Madison County Record | Dec 7, 2015


State Farm can give Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier any confidential documents that it has given to plaintiffs in an $8 billion racketeering suit, U.S. Magistrate Stephen Williams ruled on Dec. 3.

Plaintiff lawyers opposed Karmeier’s access to the documents at a hearing, but State Farm lawyers showed Williams he had already resolved the dispute.

A confidentiality order he signed last year allows persons to review confidential information “by written consent of the producing party” or upon court order.

Williams had asked for briefs and had scheduled argument on the dispute, but he changed his mind after State Farm lawyers quoted his order.

“Do we need to brief this any further?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Karmeier asked for the documents in anticipation of a deposition that District Judge David Herndon granted to lead plaintiff Mark Hale of New York State.

Hale claims State Farm fraudulently secured Karmeier’s election in 2004, in order to overturn a billion dollar class action judgment from Williamson County.

Jurors there found State Farm supplied inferior parts for crash repairs, but the Supreme Court wiped out the judgment in 2005.

Hale seeks to recover the judgment plus interest, with triple damages under civil racketeering law.

Williams manages discovery for Herndon, who would preside over a trial.

Earlier this year Williams spent a day resolving dozens of disputes over electronic word searches, one at a time.

Williams resolved another at the Dec. 3 hearing, by letting plaintiffs add “Illinois” and “supreme” to a search for “court.”

He ordered both sides to confer on limiting terms and on the number of words between search terms.

“If you can’t agree on this one minute issue in a week, call me and I’ll set up a conference call,” he said,

Plaintiff lawyer Jeaninne Kenney asked permission to depose four former State Farm employees without designating them as custodians of corporate records.

Williams had previously ruled that plaintiffs could depose seven custodians, and Kenney wanted to depose the four separately from the seven on the list.

Williams said, “You get seven and the seven includes them.”

“Though they’re not technically custodians, you can designate them as custodians,” he said. “You can designate those four and that’s probably it.

“The court wants to put a nail in this soon.”

He allowed several more depositions, including State Rep. Dwight Kay.

As he prepared to adjourn, Karmeier counsel Courtney Cox approached.

He said the administrative office of the Illinois courts found and produced a file for a timeline of events that Karmeier prepared for an interview.

Cox said he would distribute the file to all parties present. He lifted a baggie.

Williams said, “Thumb drives in a plastic bag. Keep it away from me.”

Cox said he also wanted to clarify something.

“We have always operated under the belief that we are subject to the confidentiality order,” Cox said.

“We think we should be able to see matters that are marked confidential.”

Williams said, “If someone wants to show it to him, can he see it?”

Plaintiff counsel Steven Blonder, also on a phone, said no.

“Justice Karmeier is in the position of any none party witness,” Blonder said.

“Justice Karmeier should be treated the same way as anybody else.

“He shouldn’t have any additional rights and access to information than other people do.”

Cox said, “Justice Karmeier is not like any other person in this case.”

He said the complaint makes serious allegations against Karmeier.

He said plaintiffs identified him as a member of a conspiracy although they did not name him as a defendant.

Blonder said Cox blindsided him with this request.

Williams said, “That’s a fair point, because the court is hearing this for the first time.”

He asked for position statements, and he set a hearing for Jan. 8.

By then, Cancila’s colleagues had found the provision in the confidentiality order that allowed Karmeier to view State Farm’s confidential documents.

Williams read the provision, applied it, and adjourned the hearing.

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