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Top Cates' contributor files TCPA class action against Overstreet, who calls suit 'political stunt from desperate campaign'

Madison County Record

Tuesday, October 13, 2020  |  Article  |  By Steve Korris

Candidates--Judicial (27b)

BELLEVILLE – A class action lawsuit has been filed against Republican candidate for Illinois Supreme Court David Overstreet over alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by a lawyer who’s a top contributor to his opponent, Democrat Judy Cates.

St. Louis attorney John Driscoll, who gave Cates $11,600 in January and $10,000 in August, filed the suit for plaintiff Jacqueline Racener on Sept. 30 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. 

Driscoll proposes a class action seeking damages between $500 and $1,500 for each violation of the TCPA, enacted in 1991.

“Where here there were as many as five unwanted text communications sent to Ms. Racener, the responsible parties could be liable for damages of between $2,500 and $7,500 to Ms. Racener alone,” Driscoll wrote. He also claims damages would increase exponentially until defendants were enjoined. 

Overstreet issued the following response:

"This is nothing more than Judy Cates using the legal system as her personal playground. It’s a political stunt from a desperate campaign. We have retained legal counsel and will refer you to them.“ 

According to the complaint, Racener never heard of Overstreet and never consented to be contacted in this manner. 

Messages and pictures Racener received allegedly alarmed and disturbed her.  Persons who sent the messages sent them to others in Illinois and they allegedly continue doing so. 

Driscoll moved to discover identities of entities behind the messages, which came from area code 304 of West Virginia. 

He alleged an emergency, stating the Supreme Court requires judicial candidates to close their committees 90 days after an election. 

He wrote that Overstreet and his agents “would be able to avoid having to pay for flagrant and repeated Telephone Communication Privacy Act violations.”

St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson assigned Associate Judge Jeffrey Watson, who signed an order Driscoll wrote.

Watson signed an injunction on Sept. 30, ordering Overstreet to stop sending campaign messages by text. 

Watson acted without notice to Overstreet, finding an emergency existed. 

He set the injunction to expire on Saturday, Oct. 10, and he set a hearing on Monday, Oct. 13. 

On Oct. 6, Overstreet filed notice of removal to U.S. district court. 

As of Oct. 8, he had not carried out a removal. 

Driscoll leads a firm in downtown St. Louis, and is among the top spending law firms seeking clients to sue the manufacturer of weedkiller Roundup.

In 2019, Driscoll and Onder Law spent $8 million combined to attract and sign up plaintiffs in their campaigns against Bayer, which in 2018 acquired the original manufacturer of Roundup, St. Louis-based Monsanto.

According to Cates’s campaign’s reports through June 30, Driscoll also provided her a vehicle from Feb. 1 to June 30, at $400 a month. 

She listed the monthly amounts as contributions in kind.