ILNews

Counsel’s conflict, misconduct bar class certification in tax sale suit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A federal judge cited an attorney’s conflict of interest, misconduct and relative inexperience in rejecting his bid to certify a class in a lawsuit over costs of redeeming property after tax sales.

District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division, denied the motion for class certification in Joshua B. Crissen v. Vinod C. Gupta, et al., 2:12-cv-00355.

Crissen, who redeemed his Greene County property after it was sold at a county tax sale, sought to represent a class of people who redeemed property purchased at tax sales by defendants. He claimed redemption prices were inflated by the inclusion of notification or title costs defendants didn’t incur.

In a 35-page order, Magnus-Stinson noted Crissen’s counsel, St. Louis attorney Jesse Rochman, is the son of Barrett Rochman, a competitor of Vinod Gupta. Magnus-Stinson also noted Barrett Rochman “recently pled guilty and received a sentence of sixteen months in federal prison for entering into a scheme with former Madison County, Illinois Treasurer Fred Bathon whereby property tax sales were structured ‘in a way that eliminated competition and increased interest rates for Rochman and other tax buyers in exchange for campaign contributions.’”  

“In sum, the instigation of this lawsuit by Barrett Rochman (one of Vinod Gupta’s biggest business competitors), through Jesse Rochman, with the stated goal of gaining a competitive advantage, and counsel’s familial and attorney-client relationship with Barrett Rochman preclude any finding that counsel would adequately represent the class,” Magnus-Stinson wrote.

“While there do not appear to be any cases where courts have dealt with the issue of whether class counsel are inadequate because they have ties to the defendant’s business competitor, the Court finds that this is an ‘other matter pertinent to counsel’s ability to fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class,’” she wrote.

The order also recounts prior sanctions against plaintiff’s counsel, and the judge warned further misconduct would result in dismissal of the case. “The misconduct Mr. Crissen’s counsel have engaged in – both individually on the part of Jesse Rochman and collectively – creates a serious doubt that counsel will represent the class loyally and jeopardizes the Court’s ability to reach a just and proper outcome in the case.”

Magnus-Stinson also found that a prior class action Jesse Rochman initiated in Illinois reflected negatively his ability to adequately represent the class. Proposed as a prospective class of more than 2,100 plaintiffs alleging damages of more than $1 million, “(u)ltimately, only three class members filed claims, prompting the court ... to remark ‘I’ve got three cases, really, that, you know, would have probably been given about five minutes in a small claims court, and that’s what I have.’”

Magnus-Stinson requested a magistrate schedule a conference to set a schedule to bring Crissen’s claims to conclusion.




 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Is it possible to amend an order for child support due to false paternity?

  2. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  3. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  4. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  5. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

ADVERTISEMENT