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

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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.




 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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