After admitting he improperly practiced law in Illinois, Texas-based lawyer Christopher Bandas, who has been accused of being a “professional objector” to class action settlements, has been banned from several activities that plaintiffs firm Edelson PC challenged as part of a lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer in Chicago issued an injunction and judgment against Bandas and his Corpus Christi, Texas-based Bandas Law Firm on Thursday that prohibits him from engaging in unauthorized legal practice. The judgment brings to a close a lawsuit that Edelson, a leading plaintiffs firm in privacy, data security and consumer protection cases, filed in 2016 against Bandas, his firm and some of his associates.
Edelson’s suit called out Bandas as a so-called professional or serial objector, alleging that he and some of his associates made a living by shaking down plaintiffs lawyers who negotiate large class action settlements. Edelson originally included racketeering claims in the suit, but they were later dismissed.
The suit alleged that Bandas often filed frivolous objections to class action settlements, then threatened to continue them unless the lead plaintiffs lawyers paid him a portion of their legal fees from the settlement.
Edelson said it had a front-row view of this alleged scheme in one of its cases when it was forced to pay $225,000 so Bandas would drop an objection to a $13.8 million settlement in Telephone Consumer Protection Act litigation against publisher Gannett Co. Inc., according to court documents.
With Pallmeyer’s judgment, Bandas is required to withdraw any pending objections he might have in the Illinois state and federal courts, and he’s prohibited from ghostwriting objections and asking local lawyers to file them without Bandas’ ever personally appearing in court.
Similarly, Bandas is not allowed under the ruling to pay or offer to pay any clients in connection with an objection to a class action settlement, unless he receives prior court approval. He also has to show a copy of Pallmeyer’s order whenever he applies for pro hac vice admission in jurisdictions where he isn’t a member of the bar.
“We were pleased by the court’s order,” said Edelson founder Jay Edelson. “We certainly hope and expect that what happened in this case will similarly impact the actions of others in the objector’s bar going forward.”
Bandas, who recently brought on new defense counsel in Robert Cummins of Norman Hanson DeTroy in Maine, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
In recent days, though, Bandas made a series of admissions in court filings, including that he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and was remorseful for his conduct. In a filing on Tuesday that asked to withdraw a countersuit against Edelson, Bandas’ defense team wrote that he understood the ramifications of a court ruling “that yet another member of the bar and law firm has placed self-interest and financial considerations above ethical obligations.”
Bandas’ filing continued: “Defendants acknowledge that their reputations before the courts of this jurisdiction and across the country have been gravely but justifiably tarnished. Undoubtedly, should defendants continue to practice class litigation, they will carry the tattoo of these orders with them and they greatly regret the circumstances that bring them before this court.”
Bandas in August made an initial offer of judgment in which he agreed, in general terms, to stop practicing law in Illinois without authorization. Edelson opposed that offer, however, arguing that it was vague and wouldn’t actually curb Bandas’ conduct.
The judgment Pallmeyer ultimately entered on Thursday was more detailed than Bandas’ initial proposal, and closer to the injunction Edelson sought in the case. The judge also ordered Bandas to pay $5,447.65 to cover Edelson’s costs in the lawsuit.
Bandas’ approach to settlement objections previously earned him a dressing down from a state appeals court in Illinois, which found in November that Bandas and a lawyer he worked with committed “fraud on the court” with their objection to the Gannett settlement.