Plaintiff, judge at odds over $143,000 sanction 
Article Courtesy of The Register-Mail
8 - 24 - 2002
By DAVID HOTLE of The Register-Mail 

Moline woman ordered to pay attorney fees in dispute with Oak Run
GALESBURG - A five-year legal fight that began as a lawsuit against a local property owners group may prove very costly for a Moline woman. 

Monica J. Sadler's battle began in 1997 when she sued an Oak Run property owner and the Oak Run Property Owners Association in Dahinda. Since then, enough paperwork has been filed to fill three cabinets in the Knox County Courthouse. 

Among that paperwork now is a July 26 order by Ninth Circuit Court Administrative Judge Harry Bulkeley that Sadler pay $142,844, the cost of defense attorney fees since August 1997. 

Sadler claims this is the largest sanction in Knox County history and says she will not pay the fees. In fact, she is vowing to investigate Ninth Circuit judges. 

"It is absurd to sanction me when I have done nothing wrong," she said. 

Bulkeley, while acknowledging in his order "the fees may seem burdensome to the plaintiff," said suit was "for an improper purpose." Because of that, he said in a written statement, "equity requires that the defendants be reimbursed." 

Bulkeley declined to elaborate on the "improper purpose." 

"Because it is still a pending case, I am unable to comment on it," he told The Register-Mail. 

Sadler plans to file a motion for reconsideration and vowed to investigate Ninth Circuit judges, claiming many of them may be biased against her case due to several challenges she's made to Bulkeley's impartiality. 

"I think many of the judges in the Ninth Circuit may owe their initial appointment to Harry Bulkeley," she said. "I think there is a huge problem in the judiciary of Knox County and someone needs to address it." 

In a letter to Ninth Circuit Chief Judge William Henderson, Sadler said she plans to ask an unnamed judge - who she said applauded her challenge of Bulkeley's impartiality - to come forward. She has also requested the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board investigate the matter. 

During the suit, Sadler and her attorney, Barney Olson II, Galesburg, made two attempts to disqualify Bulkeley, claiming his work as an attorney for the Oak Run Property Owners Association during a 1980 tax appeal case represented a conflict of interest. Since the case began, two separate judges, David Stoverlink and Steven Bordner, have ruled there is no prejudice. Both are Ninth Circuit judges appointed to the bench while Bulkeley was serving as a circuit judge. 

Olson removed himself Aug. 13 as Sadler's counsel on the case. 

"Once Judge Bulkeley made his ruling for the sanctions, Mrs. Sadler felt, with the way she plans to proceed, it was best that I remove myself," Olson said. 

In the case of Sadler vs. Creekmur, filed June 12, 1997, Sadler claimed a request for subdivision by William V. Creekmur was a violation of the restrictive covenant that covers the Forest Ridge Subdivision at Oak Run. Motions in the case currently fill 12 volumes, each about four inches thick, in three filing cabinets in the Knox County Circuit Clerk's Office that are appropriated for Sadler's pending litigation. 

In August 1997, the ORPOA voted to vacate its building permit for the land. Defense attorneys asked for the sanctions, arguing the suit should have ended then. 

Sadler said the suit continued because she requested a ruling on whether subdivision of Oak Run property is allowable. Bulkeley has ruled the language in the covenant does not restrict subdivision. Sadler argues that more than 1,000 similar cases with identical language indicate subdivision is restricted. 

"I hope this case will thrust Oak Run into the spotlight," she said. "There is no place for consumers to go if they have a problem with a homeowners' association."