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Trail of court troubles follows Algonquin Township Highway Department attorney

Federal brief details missed deadlines, technical difficulties

Woodstock-based attorney Robert Hanlon (left) and Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser attend an Algonquin Township board meeting June 14, 2017, in Crystal Lake.
Woodstock-based attorney Robert Hanlon (left) and Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser attend an Algonquin Township board meeting June 14, 2017, in Crystal Lake.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Robert Hanlon, the $400-an-hour attorney representing Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser, has a long history of missing important court deadlines.

The Woodstock lawyer’s most recent miss was revealed in December, when he appeared in a Lake County courtroom alongside Gasser to defend a contempt charge brought against him in a complex and expensive labor case on its way to appeals court after being dismissed multiple times.

“I failed to meet the deadline because it was misdocketed at my office,” Hanlon told Circuit Judge Daniel L. Jasica before asking for an extension.

“I don’t believe this is the first time that we’ve had a deadline that you have failed to meet in this case,” Jasica said. “I think it’s happened on several occasions previously.”

A review of federal and circuit court filings revealed numerous occasions where Hanlon, whose firm has billed the Algonquin Township Highway Department more than $400,000 since June 2017, failed to meet a deadline in court – a trail that led a Chicago lawyer in 2016 to call for sanctions.

Hanlon could not be reached for comment on this story.

Hanlon’s ‘modus operandi’

In 2016, attorney Alejandro Caffarelli, representing a client named Rene Vargas, asked Judge Michael T. Mason, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, for sanctions against the lawyer on the other side: Hanlon.

“[There] was simply no other way,” Caffarelli wrote in a 10-page legal brief, “to put an end to the misrepresentation, delay and obstructionism that appear to be Mr. Hanlon’s modus operandi.”

Caffarelli reviewed the 39 federal court cases where Hanlon had entered an appearance, a study that “revealed that Mr. Hanlon has employed this identical pattern of obstruction, delay and hostility throughout his 10 years as an attorney, time and time again.”

Caffarelli, who could not be reached for comment, included a section titled “Mr. Hanlon has an extensive history of identical vexatious practices.” 

In it, Caffarelli broke down Hanlon’s first 10 years as a lawyer.

“He has a demonstrated pattern,” Caffarelli wrote, “of late filings, filing late after receiving additional time, claiming to have sent something that opposing counsel never received, refusing to cooperate in discovery, failing to timely answer discovery, failing to schedule motions for presentment, attacking opposing counsel by accusing them of misconduct and failing to comply with court orders.” 

Caffarelli listed examples:

• “In seven other cases (including twice in one case), Mr. Hanlon has requested additional time and/or to file … due to ‘computer problems,’ ‘computer issues,’ ‘PACER problems,’ ‘technical difficulties’ and email ‘error messages.’ ”

• “In at least 14 other cases, Mr. Hanlon similarly filed multiple motions for leave to file … because he failed to meet a court-ordered deadline.” 

• “In at least three other cases,
Mr. Hanlon falls back on the old excuse of having sent something, which magically never arrives.” 

The court did not sanction Hanlon, and the case later was settled.

‘Failed to answer the complaint’

In 2013, Hanlon represented a man named Michael Reschke and a company called Windmill Communities LLC in Wisconsin.

Windmill had borrowed about
$6.4 million from Talmer Bank, and the company later defaulted on five promissory notes, one of which was secured by a mortgage, according to Wisconsin Court of Appeals documents.

Talmer Bank sought foreclosure on the mortgage and monetary judgments against Windmill. Windmill’s counsel failed to respond to the complaint.

“The bank moved for a default judgment,” according to a May 8, 2013, court of appeals order. “Windmill failed to answer the complaint.”

The court ordered the mortgaged property to be sold at a sheriff’s sale.

“At the sheriff’s sale, the bank was the successful bidder on the mortgaged property,” the appeal order said. “Its motion for confirmation and for deficiency judgment against Reschke was supported by an affidavit of its counsel. Although Windmill filed no objection, at the hearing on the motion, the court granted it a thirty-day extension to file a responsive brief.”

Hanlon did not file anything, “explaining that he was in Minnesota on a Boy Scout canoe trip.”

Years later in Algonquin Township, in September 2017, an administrative law judge ordered Gasser to rehire three employees he fired on his first day in office with back pay and interest. The order came after Hanlon did not respond to a labor complaint.

Hanlon said he was not in the country when the notice showed up.

“At the time of the motion for default,” a motion said, “attorney Hanlon was in France.”

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