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Judge criticizes counsel seeking class status

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Don't expect one federal judge to re-examine a ruling by another jurist on the same court if you don't present any new facts or arguments on a similar case and issue.

That's the message to federal attorneys practicing in the Southern District of Indiana, as detailed in a decision Thursday from U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton in Blanca Gomez and Joan Wagner-Barnett v. St. Vincent Health, No. 1:08-CV-0153. The judge denied a class-action certification motion involving two ex-hospital workers who allege their former employer didn't provide adequate notice of COBRA rights to more than 250 people qualified for that extended health insurance between May 2004 and January 2006.

Plaintiff attorney Ronald E. Weldy, with Weldy & Associates in Indianapolis, had filed a previous suit that Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis ruled on in 2007, also denying the class certification and faulting the lawyer for inadequate representation of the plaintiffs. The attorney originally appealed that denial at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but abandoned the appeal to subsequently file this second suit about the same proposed class of former hospital employees.

"They provide no new facts or arguments in their motion for class certification; they have merely decided to emphasize the aspects of their case that they believe undermine Judge Barker's decision. If plaintiffs' counsel wanted a review of Judge Barker's decision, his proper recourse was to the Seventh Circuit," Judge Hamilton wrote. "(Her) decision was not a first draft for another district judge to expound upon after plaintiffs' counsel had an opportunity to see the flaws in his initial argument."

Citing that previous case of Brown-Pfifer v. St. Vincent Health, 2007 WL 2757264 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 20, 2007), the court detailed how Judge Barker and Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson had previously perceived deficiencies in the proposed class counsel that included faulty discovery efforts and a failure to develop a full record.

"His questionable work in that case and his decision to relitigate the same issues in this court show a lack of regard for scarce judicial resources," Judge Hamilton wrote. "This attempt to have this court effectively overrule a colleague on the District Court on an indistinguishable record is not the best means of representing the proposed class members."

Pointing to caselaw showing that a requirement of class-certification is adequacy of representation, Judge Hamilton found that plaintiffs' counsel in this case is not adequate to represent the proposed class. Without an appropriate class counsel, certification for that proposed class must be denied.

Weldy has been certified as class counsel by a third judge in a separate COBRA notification case. Judge Hamilton wrote that he's not expressing any opinion on the lawyer's fitness to serve in that or any other case.

Indiana Lawyer couldn't immediately reach Weldy today by phone or email for his reaction to the ruling.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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