ATLANTA (CN) – The lawyer challenging the filing arrangement between Lexis Nexis and the state court in Atlanta has answered a motion to dismiss by arguing, “the most ancient common law prohibits the purchase of justice.”
In a class action filed in June, lawyer Steven Newton accuses LexisNexis Courtlink Inc., a division of the multinational publishing giant Reed Elsevier, along with Fulton County State and Superior Court officials of running an illegal, mandatory, electronic filing system.
Newton contends that filings in Fulton County State and Superior Courts, filed through the LexisNexis File & Serve system, can cost up to $11 per filing in cases where electronic filing is mandated by orders from Fulton County State and Superior Courts and authorized by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
In his answer to the motion to dismiss, Newton said the electronic filing system is a violation of state law and Constitutional provisions.
In the case of state law, Newton cites a law which states that clerks have to accept paper filings and said that “Georgia courts have consistently held that they will not usurp the legislative function.” Regarding the Constitutional provisions, Newton noted that “no ceiling exists for the fees.”
“The most ancient common law prohibits the purchase of justice,” he added.
Newton also argues that defendants are engaging in a conspiracy in which they “came to an agreement, the primary purpose of which was to deny plaintiffs of their lawful right to access the courts…as well to allow Lexis the opportunity to charge excessive and, in theory, unlimited filing fees.”
Newton’s answer was quickly followed by a reply from one of the defendants in the case: Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Doris L. Downs.
Downs says, “This is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to equate public administrative orders regarding known court filing procedures to (alleged) back-room deals…One need only look to the voluminous exhibits attached to plaintiffs’ amended complaint to appreciate the transparency of the Superior Court’s e-filing system.”
Downs’ attorneys criticized the plaintiff’s papers as “shotgun pleading” and argued that the matter should be moved to state court, the very institution being sued in the matter.
When asked about the “shotgun pleading” argument, Newton said, “If that’s the best [they’ve] got, I feel pretty good.”
Newton also doesn’t believe his case is a matter for state court.
“I don’t trust the state courts system,” he said. “I am seeking refuge in federal court even though it makes it more difficult.”
In reply papers filed by other individual defendants, they point out that Newton says he is not seeking monetary damages from Fulton County state court officials, but that plaintiffs “also state a negligence per se claim against all defendants seeking damages and a claim for compensatory, punitive damages and attorney’s fees against all ‘defendants.'”
Newton responds by saying he is only looking to have LexisNexis Courtlink return all of the fees his clients paid and then he will go after the fees paid by the class.
Attorneys representing Fulton County State and Superior Court officials were unable to be reached for comment.
Other than LexisNexis Courtlink, the defendants are 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; Cathlene “Tina” Robinson, clerk of the Fulton County Superior Court and Fulton County, Georgia.
Fulton County and LexisNexis Courtlink have yet to file their replies.