Cook County Record

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Jury slaps down bankruptcy lawyer Geraci's demand for millions from ex-employee accused of software theft

By Jonathan Bilyk | Dec 19, 2017

Law money 06

One of the country’s most prominent bankruptcy lawyers has lost a round in court over claims a former employee stole his firm’s software in support of a rival bankruptcy law practice.

On Dec. 14, a federal court jury in Chicago sided with Thomas G. Macey and R. William Amidon, who had been accused by Peter Francis Geraci of allegedly stealing his trade secrets.

The legal action first landed in Chicago federal court in 2015, but dates back five years earlier, when Geraci first filed suit against the two men in DuPage County Circuit Court.

In his lawsuit, Geraci alleged Amidon improperly copied and shared his trademarked bankruptcy law practice management software, which the Geraci firm designated the Geraci Automated Program, or GapC. Geraci accused Amidon of using the copied version of GapC to create a similar system for rival firm, Legal Helpers, which was headed by Macey.

In federal court in 2015, Geraci asked the court to order Amidon and Macey to pay him more than $1 million for their actions, which he alleged violated his federal copyright, as well as laws forbidding the unauthorized sharing of certain proprietary information, or “trade secrets.”

Amidon, who had been hired by Geraci in the mid-1990s to develop GapC and had worked for Geraci until he was fired in 2006, was also accused of violating his contract. According to Geraci’s lawsuit, Geraci alleged he had discovered in 2010 that Amidon had been “working secretly for Macey.”

Legal Helpers has since dissolved, after the firm was hit with regulatory enforcement actions, leveling millions of dollars in fines, in Illinois and other states for allegedly farming out client legal services to non-lawyers. In 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Macey’s law license for two years.

Geraci’s accusations against Amidon, however, have yet to find firm footing in court.

U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah in 2016 allowed the case to go before the jury, rejecting Amidon’s and Macey’s requests for summary judgment. In that ruling, Shah said he believed evidence presented by Geraci indicated Geraci should be allowed to make his case that GapC was a “trade secret” and Amidon and Macey “misappropriated” the software, in violation of the law.

The jury, however, after six days of trial, which began Dec. 5, ruled for the defendants. They did not award any damages.

Shah indicated any post-trial motions from Geraci are due by Jan. 11, and from the defendants, in February.

Geraci is represented by attorney Thomas J. Fedick, of Harman & Fedick Ltd., and Robert M. Halligan, of Fisher Broyles LLP, both of Chicago, as well as Jonathan D. Parker, of Geraci Law LLC.

Macey is represented in the case by attorneys Emily A. Shupe, Timothy D. Elliott and David P. Hollander, with the firm of Rathje & Woodward, of Wheaton.

Amidon is defended by Kevin J. Narko, of Narko Law Group LLC, and James J. Lessmeister and Jimmy A. Samad, of Lessmeister & Associates, both of Chicago.

As the suit against Amidon and Macey headed to trial, another of Geraci’s business-related lawsuits remained pending in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago. In that case, Geraci sued another former associate, Kevin Chern, alleging Chern, a lawyer, also improperly copied and shared the GapC software to benefit Legal Helpers beginning in 1997.

Chern was not involved or implicated in the alleged activity underlying the enforcement actions against Legal Helpers Debt Resolution.

According to Cook County court records, Chern is represented in that action by the firm of Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLPKevin J. NarkoHarman & Fedick, Ltd.Illinois Supreme CourtGeraci Law LLCCircuit Court of Dupage CountyU.S. District Court for the Northern District of IllinoisRathje & Woodward LLCLegal Helpers