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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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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