ATLANTA (CN) – Attorney Steven J. Newton filed a motion to add past and present Fulton County court clerks to a lawsuit challenging the county’s e-filing system after defendants Lexis-Nexis Courtlink and the county argued that the case should be dismissed because the clerks are “indispensable parties.”
Newton and other attorneys sued in Fulton County Superior Court in January, claiming that the Reed Elsevier-owned Lexis-Nexis Courtlink and Fulton County, Ga., are charging more for filing documents than allowed by law and are refusing to accept paper filings in Fulton courts.
Newton is representing W. Phillip McCurdy III, Michael Cawthon, Nelson Picklesimer, the administrator of Kenneth Larry Clowdus’ estate and The Best Jewelry Manufacturing Co.
“This class action arises from an illegal scheme perpetuated by defendant Reed Elsevier Inc. dba Lexis-Nexis Courtlink Inc. to impose an unlawful, mandatory e-filing system upon litigants in Fulton County State and Superior Courts and to charge excessive and unauthorized fees in connection therewith. Defendant Fulton County has participated in Lexis’ illegal scheme by promulgating a ‘pilot program’ authorizing Lexis’ unlawful mandatory e-filing scheme and excessive fees without the statutory authority to do so,” according to the complaint.
Since the case was filed, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Castellani granted a motion to disqualify and recuse all Fulton County State and Superior Court judges from the case.
“The recusal motion was very important,” Newton said. “But nothing has happened to address the merits of this case. This case is still in its infancy.”
According to Newton’s motion, “Defendant Lexis moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint, arguing, among other things, that one or more of the Fulton County State and/or Superior Court judges and the clerks of Fulton County State and Superior Court are indispensable parties to this action.”
Newton sought to remedy the alleged oversight by seeking to add those same clerks as defendants.
“[P]laintiffs disagree that the relief they seek cannot be obtained from Lexis and Fulton County,” Newton’s motion states. “Regardless, plaintiffs concede that the past and present clerks of Fulton County State and Superior Court, Mark N. Harper, Stefani R. Lacour, Juanita Hicks and Cathlene ‘Tina’ Robinson, have failed to and refused to accept paper filings” in violation of the law.
“The duty to accept paper filings is ministerial in nature,” the motion states.
The lawsuit is the fourth claim against Fulton County and Lexis-Nexis Courtlink.
The Fulton County Superior Court case was originally filed in May 2009, then voluntarily dismissed and refiled on Jan. 6.
Newton filed a similar lawsuit against Lexis-Nexis Courtlink and Fulton County in Federal Court. He filed the original federal claim in December 2007, but withdrew it in March 2008, then refiled it in June 2008.
Clerks Robinson and Harper were defendants in the federal case, which was dismissed in March 2009.
“We are constantly evaluating and reevaluating the issues in this case,” Newton said. “And a lot of these issues have never been adjudicated before, but we think adding these defendants will make for a cleaner prosecution.”
Attorneys representing Fulton County and Lexis Nexis did not return calls for comment.