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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

County Fights Recusal|in E-Filing Class Action

ATLANTA (CN) - The perils of handing over a court filing system to a private vendor are being illustrated in a lawsuit against the state court in Atlanta where a lawyer is challenging the fees imposed by vendor Lexis Nexis, a division of Dutch-British publishing behemoth Reed Elsevier. Lexis reportedly suggested that all county judges be defendants while the plaintiff lawyer is now moving to have the case tried outside the county.

Fulton County says attorney Steven Newton's motion to recuse all Fulton County judges in his challenge of the county's mandatory electronic-filing system was untimely. And Reed Elsevier, which runs the e-filing system, accused Newton of trying to "mislead this court." At issue is Newton's third lawsuit against Fulton County and Reed Elsevier, owner of the LexisNexis File and Serve system.

In its response to Newton's motion for recusal, Fulton County claims that Newton's motion was "filed over three months after the filing of the original complaint, at which time plaintiffs concede they were already aware of their bases for requesting recusal."

Newton and his clients say their motion to recuse was timely because their original complaint contained a request for disqualification of all Fulton County judges.

But Fulton County says the plaintiffs "did not present such evidence in the form of an accompanying affidavit at the time of filing their unverified complaint."

Reed Elsevier, in requesting dismissal of Newton's first amended complaint, is saying that it did not really say that all judges are necessary parties, and that filing counsel Newton is making that accusation in order to support his effort to have the case transferred to another region of Georgia.

In the complaint, Newton wrote: "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."

Newton filed his first complaint in Federal Court in December 2007 against Lexis-Nexis Courtlink and Fulton County. He withdrew that case in March 2008, then refiled it in June 2008. That case was dismissed in March this year.

In his third complaint, Newton sued Fulton County and Reed Elsevier. In that case, he represents W. Phillip McCurdy III, Michael Cawthon, Nelson Picklesimer, Kenneth Clowdus as administrator for the estate of Kenneth Larry Clowdus, and The Best Jewelry Manufacturing Co..

In the dismissed case, the other defendants were Mark Harper, chief clerk of the Fulton County State Court; A.L. Thompson, Fulton County State Court chief judge; Doris L. Downs, Fulton County Superior Court chief judge; and Cathlene "Tina" Robinson, clerk of the Fulton County Superior Court.

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