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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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