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Anatomy of a Madison County (Illinois) Class Actions: A Study of Pathology

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Anatomy of a Madison County (Illinois) Class Actions: A Study of Pathology

August 1, 2002
Legal ReformOther

If per-capita class action filing rates were the same nationwide as they are in Madison County, Illinois, there would have been over 42,000 class action filings in 2000. One reason for the county's popularity among class action lawyers is its reputation for the propensity of its judges to accommodate class action lawyers' interests.

In this monograph, I focus on a single class action (Schuppert et al. v. Down et al.) filed in Madison County on behalf of hundreds of thousands of mostly elderly Americans who were the victims of a vast mass-marketing scheme conducted by James Blair Down ("Down"), a Canadian citizen. Ironically, if not tragically, the elderly victims of the scheme appear poised to become victims a second time - of "class action" justice in Madison County. A provisional settlement agreement is so abusive of the class's rights that it can only gain final judicial approbation from a court oblivious to the need to protect class members from self-interested behavior by its self-appointed class lawyers. Indeed, if there were an award for the most abusive class action settlement of the decade, if not the century, this settlement would be an odds-on favorite to gain the prize. The only possible impediment is a unique confluence of events that is permitting public scrutiny of the settlement—scrutiny that has already had some effect on the judicial proceedings in Madison County.

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