Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shakespeare And Orange Juice

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney pursued frivolous appeals of orders holding him in contempt for disclosure of confidential information.

The Chicago Tribune had a report on the underlying matter in June 1995

[United States District Court Judge] Zagel turned to Shakespearean figures to describe [attorney] Messina's travail.

"Othello's downfall was the result of his own jealousy, MacBeth fell victim to his blinding ambition, Lear's insecurity prompted his misfortunes, and Hamlet's tragedy was that of a man who could not make up his mind," Zagel wrote. "John Messina fits the mold of the great tragic figure. His is the tragedy of an attorney who could not keep a confidence."

Messina represented Grove Fresh Distributors Inc., the plaintiff in two separate but related federal lawsuits filed against competing manufacturers for allegedly conspiring to adulterate orange juice.

During the first suit, filed in 1989 against Everfresh Juice Co., Zagel said he grew concerned at Messina's repeated disclosures of confidential information he learned of in the course of the litigation.

Messina appeared intent on trying his case "on the courthouse steps rather than in the courtroom itself," Zagel wrote.

As a result, when Messina filed the second lawsuit in 1990 against Everfresh's parent company, John Labatt Ltd., Zagel ordered the complaint sealed and any subsequent filings made under seal.

But in last week's decision, Zagel said Messina continued to flout his orders, disclosing confidential information from the lawsuits three separate times: in a letter, in a legal brief and in a conversation with a reporter.

Among the alleged disclosures, Messina divulged the confidential settlement amount Labatt paid in the second suit. The first suit was dismissed.

He also disclosed to a reporter that certain individuals in the litigation had invoked their 5th Amendment privilege, prompting a front-page story in The New York Times in 1993.

The legal brief was a filing Messina made to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. In it, he suggested he was still Grove Fresh's lawyer, even though he had been dismissed months earlier. The appeals court threw out the motion as frivolous.

The complaint recites findings that the appeals were frivolous from the federal court decisions. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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