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04/13/87 the Board of Commissioners v. the County of Will Et Al.

April 13, 1987

ET AL., PLAINTIFFS

v.

THE COUNTY OF WILL ET AL., DEFENDANTS (MOSS & BLOOMBERG, PETITIONER-APPELLANT; THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF REED-CUSTER COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO.



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE BOLINGBROOK PARK DISTRICT

255-U et al., Respondents-Appellees)

506 N.E.2d 1044, 154 Ill. App. 3d 395, 107 Ill. Dec. 153 1987.IL.492

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Herman S. Haase, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE WOMBACHER delivered the opinion of the court. STOUDER and SCOTT, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WOMBACHER

In June of 1981 the law firm of Moss & Bloomberg filed a complaint against the Will County treasurer and the County of Will. The action sought to enjoin the defendants' practice of retaining interest earned on taxes extended and levied by the plaintiff class members, from the time of receipt by defendants to the time of disbursement to the plaintiff class members. The complaint challenged the defendants' practice as being illegal under Illinois statutes and the 1970 Constitution of the State of Illinois. Moss & Bloomberg brought similar suits in Cook, Du Page and Lake counties on behalf of municipal bodies in those counties.

The trial court dismissed the complaint in the Will County case. On November 5, 1982, this court held, in an unpublished order (case No. 82 -- 0140), that the complaint in that action did state a cause of action; the decision rested upon a prior appellate court decision regarding the similar suit which had been filed in Du Page County and appealed to the second appellate district.

Subsequent to this court's ruling, the Du Page case was taken on appeal from the appellate court to the Illinois Supreme Court. During the pendency of the case before the supreme court, the County of Will appealed this court's decision regarding the complaint filed in the Will County circuit court. During this time, Moss & Bloomberg engaged in negotiations with the Will County State's Attorney's office which resulted in an agreed order. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff class and ordered an accounting of the undistributed tax monies.

As a consequence of the actions brought in the various circuit courts, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the defendants were liable to the plaintiffs for the interest earned on collected but undistributed tax monies from May 27, 1983. Board of Commissioners of the Wood Dale Public Library District v. County of Du Page (1982), 107 Ill. App. 3d 409, 437 N.E.2d 923, aff'd (1983), 96 Ill. 2d 378, 450 N.E.2d 332, appeal after remand (1983), 119 Ill. App. 3d 1085, 457 N.E.2d 1291, rev'd in part (1984), 103 Ill. 2d 422.

As a result of the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court, a fund was created in the approximate aggregate amount of $2,100,000. Moss & Bloomberg and the Will County State's Attorney agreed to settle on attorney fees for $272,500, approximately 12.98% of the estimated fund. The fees settled on by the State's Attorney and Moss & Bloomberg came to $250 an hour for 1090 hours billed. A notice issued from the trial court providing that a hearing was to be held on March 12, 1986, for determining whether the proposed orders were fair, reasonable, and adequate and should be finally approved by the court. Two objectors, representing 13% of the fund, filed objections prior to the March 12 hearing. Subsequently Moss & Bloomberg and the parties agreed to settle the fee claim for $218,000, which amounted to $200 an hour.

On March 18, 1986, the Will County Bar Association appeared before the trial court and filed a petition to intervene as amicus curiae. Thereafter the court refused to approve the reasonableness of the settlement reached on the fee issue. Moss & Bloomberg's motions for change of venue and objection to the partisan nature of the amicus curiae were denied.

On May 27, 1986, the trial Judge determined that a trial was needed to settle the fees issue. At the trial the Judge concluded that because the Will County case was merely one of four cases, and not the lead case, the amounts paid to Moss & Bloomberg had already rewarded them adequately for the contingent nature of the case. Moss & Bloomberg had previously received $200 an hour for a total of $575,000 in the Du Page County case, $240 an hour for a total of $428,000 in the Cook County case, and was to receive $381 an hour for a total of $376,000 in the Lake County case. Although the trial court recognized that substantial future benefits would accrue to the taxing bodies, it found that the benefit arose mainly due to the Du Page County case, where most of the litigation really took place. Because of the court's determination that the cases in Lake, Cook, Du Page, and ...


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