Madison County: Ms. Howell’s two hats

In an article about the controversial Lucent class action settlement ($84 million for the lawyers, $8 million for the class; see Apr. 5) the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks with Joy Howell, spokeswoman for lead class counsel Stephen Tillery, who’s among Madison County’s most prominent class-action lawyers. Later in the piece it emerges that Ms. Howell “also serves as a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Preserve Access to Justice”, a group that vehemently opposes the reform-minded Class Action Fairness Act on behalf of “more than 80 national consumer, environmental and civil rights groups”. Hmmm. (Trisha L. Howard, “Nixon backs state role in class action suits”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 3). And the local press is casting a skeptical eye on what the Post-Dispatch calls “the strange little courthouse in Edwardsville” (Illinois) and the doings of Judge Nicholas C. Byron in particular (see “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Madison County”, Apr. 22) (“Madison County: What’s the judge hiding?” (editorial), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 1; Brian Brueggemann, “Judge Byron endures hot seat”, Belleville News-Democrat, May 3; “‘Judicial hellhole’ deepens with law firm’s banishment” (editorial), Bloomington Pantagraph, Apr. 27). Last month “Byron ordered a newspaper reporter to leave the courtroom Monday when [attorney Rex] Carr and Tillery began arguing about the apparently sensitive issue of how much money the firm has earned.” (Brian Brueggemann, “Class-action lawyers fight over money”, Belleville News-Democrat, Apr. 11, and how’s that for a quotidian headline?). Finally, visions of sugar plums seem to have gone a-glimmering for class action attorney Judy Cates, of columnist-suing fame, when a Belleville jury rejected her lawsuit demanding $300 million from Allstate because it does not reimburse its auto policyholders after crashes for the decline in the resale value of their fully repaired cars. According to defense attorney H. Sinclair “Rod” Kerr, the lead plaintiffs, Michael and Tiffany Sims of East St. Louis, Ill., “decided to sue only after a relative called their attention to a newspaper ad placed by Cates’ law firm seeking plaintiffs against Allstate.” (Robert Goodrich, “Jury rejects class-action suit over car repairs”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 29).

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  • […] Publisher’s Clearing House settlement. For one of Cates’s more recent suits, see May 4, 2004. (”She’s our poster-lawyer”, St. Clair Record, Jun. […]