Plaintiff in $300 million lawsuit also suing former attorneys

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115562515201.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Deborah Orlando-Cooney (left) filed a legal malpractice complaint against her Rockford attorneys May 30 in Cook County. Orlando-Cooney, Rhonda Griffith-Kraut (center) and Julia Bornhuetter-Colloton filed a federal class-action complaint May 16 against agents of the Winnebago County 17th Judicial Circuit Court. ‘);

ISBA Ratings also in on judges; is Logli’s decision not to run in play?

Deborah Orlando-Cooney, one of the plaintiffs in a $300 million lawsuit filed May 16, has filed another complaint in Cook County Circuit Court. This time, Rockford attorneys Alex Abate and Michael Smith—along with their firm, Abate & Smith—have found themselves named as defendants.

Orlando-Cooney filed the legal malpractice lawsuit pro-se May 30 and is claiming damages in excess of $5 million.

May 16, local attorneys Kathryn Bischoff and Dan Cain, Rockford Public School District 205, doctors, therapists, counselors and representatives from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) were among the defendants named in the $300 million federal class-action lawsuit filed in Cook County. Also named as co-defendants were 17th Judicial Circuit Associate Judge Steven Nordquist (R) and Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli (R).

June 4, Logli announced he would not run for re-election in 2008. “Although it asks for a huge amount of money and it names a lot of defendants, I think that we will defend against that lawsuit,” Logli responded. “I believe that it is largely without merit.”

Logli could be appointed to 17th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Gerald Grubb’s seat, which will become vacant when Grubb retires Aug. 1, by Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Thomas.

Grubb’s most notable recent rulings were against Tom and Jan Ditzler in their fight to keep their land against the Winnebago County’s quick take and eminent domain proceeding for the Springfield-Harrison extension in 2000.

With all rating categories averaged, Nordquist was rated 10th out of the 11 associate judges in the 17th District Circuit Court by the local members of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).

Orlando-Cooney’s May 16 lawsuit alleges the defendants “have acted in consort to deprive the plaintiffs …of their constitutional rights of due process under the Federal Constitution by depriving them of custody of their children without due process, without a hearing, in violation of various statutory provisions; falsifying ‘docket sheets’ which are the official record of court proceedings, and other actions.”

Abate and Smith were retained in 1998 as counsel for Orlando-Cooney during her divorce and subsequent child custody case. Abate and Smith are being sued for alleged “breach of contract and negligence.”

The lawsuit alleges, “Due to the Defendants’ ineffective representation and negligence, Plaintiff lost custody of her two minor sons, after they had resided with Plaintiff from birth to their then respective ages of 15-1/2 and 13 years.”

According to the lawsuit, Orlando-Cooney has not been allowed any contact with her sons since June 15, 2005.

The complaint alleges Abate and Smith did not:

examine and communicate relevant documents;

advise Orlando-Cooney of her rights, or protect them;

pursue pleadings in Court on behalf of Orlando-Cooney;

maintain proper communication with their client;

advise Orlando-Cooney of time limits for appealing orders; or

represent Orlando-Cooney “to a reasonable degree of professional care and skill.”

The lawsuit further alleges, “That as a consequence of Defendants’ negligent acts and/or omissions during their representation of Plaintiff, the Defendants breached their fiduciary duties owed to the Plaintiff.”

Neither Abate nor Smith returned a call for comment.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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