ATLANTA (CN) - A lawyer attacking the monopoly on local e-filing granted to Lexis-Nexis by Atlanta judges sought to recuse all local judges from hearing a class action challenging the fees imposed by the European-based publisher. "All would be directly affected by the outcome of the litigation," Shuli Green argued Thursday, adding that retention of the case would result in "actual impropriety or the appearance of impropriety."
Green is part of a team of lawyers pursuing a three-year quest to upend an e-filing deal made between the judges and the giant European publisher Reed Elsevier, that earned well over 1 billion euros last year.
"This class action arises from an illegal scheme enacted by defendant Reed Elsevier Inc. dba Lexis-Nexis Courtlink Inc. and defendant Fulton County to impose an unlawful, mandatory e-filing system upon litigants in Fulton County State and Superior Court and to charge excessive and unauthorized fees in connection therewith," the complaint states.
The mass recusal motion was heard by an outside judge, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Castellani.
Herb Shellhouse, representing Fulton County, said the motion should be denied, as the supporting affidavit did not clearly state "the facts and reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists."
He added that "two of the judges were not even on the bench on June 1, 2006 when the e-filing system started."
Green replied that her opponent had misconstrued the law. She said plaintiffs need not show actual bias to succeed, but that merely the appearance of bias would suffice.
During the hearing, Green moved from the recusal motion to launch a wider assault on the e-filing deal, saying it violates the letter of Georgia's law and violates basic rights under the Constitution. Shellhouse answered that the county's deal will be "vindicated," but he argued that the case should be thrown out in the meantime.
The underlying challenge states that "Fulton County has participated in the illegal scheme by promulgating a 'pilot program' authorizing Lexis' unlawful mandatory e-filing scheme and excessive fees without the statutory authority to do so."