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Illinois class action lawyer Rex Carr’s drive to squeeze $20 million in compensatory damages out of his former law firm partners in a fee dispute slammed into a major barrier this week. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not only upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the case, but also overturned that court’s rejection of sanctions against Carr and his son Bruce Carr. The father and son, who are partners at the East St. Louis, Ill.-based Rex Carr Law Firm, represented the senior Carr in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. “The litigation is groundless,” Judge Richard Posner wrote in the unanimous Jan. 12 decision. “The plaintiff is out of control and his lawyers are neglecting their duties as officers of the state and federal courts by failing to rein him in. The district court is directed to assess a proper monetary sanction.” Posner even went so far as to give a roadmap for ending what he called Carr’s “mortal combat” against the three former partners, who once worked with Carr at Carr Korein Tillery and are now at Korein Tillery, based in St. Louis. In addition to the federal lawsuit, in which Carr claims his partners broke racketeering laws when they shortchanged him in divvying up legal fees, Carr has filed a number of state lawsuits against his former partners. “The district court should also consider whether to enjoin Carr from conducting further litigation arising from actions by the defendants of which he has complained in his voluminous filings to date,” Posner wrote. Carr filed the lawsuits in the wake of his departure from Carr Korein Tillery in 2003, claiming the partners failed to honor a 2004 pact for sharing the fees. The 7th Circuit opinion said Carr was rehashing old claims and stretching the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to bring his case in federal court. Neither of the Carrs would comment. The opinion even took Carr’s appellate attorney, Kirkland & Ellis partner Jonathan Bunge, to task for a number of missteps, including a “false statement in the opening brief” and an “improper attempt to raise issues in the reply brief that had not been mentioned in the opening brief.” Bunge declined to comment through a firm spokeswoman, noting that the litigation is still pending. The defendant attorneys — including Stephen Tillery, Steven Katz and Douglas Sprong, all still at Korein Tillery — could not be reached for comment. One of their partners, Aaron Zigler, who represented the trio in the lower and appellate courts, said his side was pleased with the ruling. “We just hope this is the last decision that comes out of this dispute,” Zigler said. Jenner & Block partner Lee Freeman also represented the Korein Tillery partners at the appellate level. In addition to Zigler, their counsel in district court were Dickstein Shapiro and local counsel Sprague & Urban of Belleville, Ill.

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