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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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