Two days after a Texas lawyer offered “unconditional surrender” in a long-running court fight over accusations he and his associates acted as “professional” class action objectors to secure six-figure payoffs, a federal judge has accepted the lawyer’s offer, ordering the case closed.
On Jan. 17, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer entered judgment in the litigation, ostensibly on behalf of the Chicago law firm of Edelson P.C.
The judge’s order did not discuss any concern of what the Edelson firm may think of the ruling, saying only the judge found “no just reason for delay of entry of this judgment.”
Edelson P.C. principal and founder, Jay Edelson, did not immediately respond to an email from The Cook County Record Thursday evening following the ruling.
In her ruling, Judge Pallmeyer slapped a permanent injunction on Bandas, prohibiting him from practicing law in Illinois or acting in conjunction with attorneys in Illinois to practice law.
The order further specifically barred Bandas from representing anyone objecting to class action settlements in “any state or federal court,” subject to certain criteria, including specifically identifying the grounds for the objection and obtaining court approval of any payment in connection with the objection.
The judge also ordered Bandas to pay $5,447 to Edelson for “costs” associated with the litigation.
The ruling came in response to a motion filed on Jan. 15 by a lawyer representing attorney Christopher Bandas and his firm, the Bandas Law Firm, of Corpus Christi, Texas, in which Bandas admitted to “unethical” behavior and asked the judge to impose just such a judgment.
The matter had been argued in Pallmeyer’s court in Chicago since 2016, when Edelson first filed suit against Bandas, accusing him and associates of racketeering and practicing law in Illinois without authorization, among other allegations.
The lawsuit took aim at Bandas’ practice of using the class action objection process to secure settlements, sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, from law firms, like Edelson, seeking to close out class action settlement deals.
The action centered on a $13.8 million settlement Edelson lawyers had negotiated to end a class action against Gannett Co. over alleged violations of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Edelson had secured approval for $5.3 million in attorney fees as part of that deal.
However, before the settlement was finalized, a California man, identified as Gary Stewart, represented by Bandas and Waukegan attorney Jeffrey Thut filed an objection, saying he believed the attorney fee award was too high.
The Cook County judge brushed aside that objection, and approved the settlement. But Bandas and Thut threatened to appeal, and lock the settlement into more litigation. At mediation, Edelson claims Bandas offered to drop the objection in exchange for $225,000.
Edelson agreed to the payoff, but then also filed his lawsuit in Chicago federal court.
Pallmeyer dismissed the racketeering charges, but allowed the case to proceed on Edelson’s assertions Bandas had improperly practiced law in Illinois.
Since then, Bandas’ litigation strategy has alternated repeatedly. In September, he asked the judge to quickly end the case by simply prohibiting him and his firm from practicing law in Illinois.
After Edelson objected, Bandas responded with a counterclaim of his own, then accusing Edelson of “dirty tricks” and entrapment, all in an attempt to “intimidate and ward off” attempts to secure multi-million dollars paydays from settlements of class action lawsuits targeting businesses and others.
In the weeks following that counterclaim, however, Bandas suffered two key setbacks. First, an Illinois state appellate court sided with Edelson in finding a Cook County judge was wrong to prevent Edelson from continuing to pursue sanctions against Bandas. In that ruling, the appellate justices said they found Bandas had committed a “fraud on the court.”
Then on Jan. 3, Pallmeyer granted Edelson’s request to dig deeper into Bandas’ law practices, and force Bandas and his associates to turn over a range of additional documents and other information Edelson asserted would prove a widespread pattern of misbehavior by Bandas.
Bandas then filed his motion, withdrawing his counterclaim and admitting to “unethical, improper and misleading conduct in filing or causing to be filed objections to proposed class action settlements.”
He offered to agree to the injunctions that have now been imposed by Pallmeyer. Bandas noted the case and its outcome have left his reputation “gravely but justifiably tarnished.”
He said his seeming capitulation should leave no reason to allow the case to continue, other than “retribution” by Edelson.
Edelson did not file a written response to Bandas’ motion.
In her ruling, Pallmeyer noted Bandas does not “dispute” either the accusation concerning the unauthorized practice of law, or of any of the accusations concerning his involvement and conduct in the Gannett case, in particular.
“Accordingly, the Court finds that issuance of a permanent injunction against Defendants is appropriate,” Pallmeyer wrote.
Bandas is now represented by attorney Robert P. Cummins, of the firm of Norman, Hanson & DeTroy LLC, of Portland, Maine.