Welch’s libel settlement delayed
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:03PM
While Emanuel “Chris” Welch is negotiating a settlement for defaming a well-known Chicago lawfirm, a court hearing revealed a law clerk was not involved in the libelous blog post.
Welch, an attorney, is Proviso High School District 209 board president and is running for state representative in the 7th District. Resolution of the lawsuit will occur after the primary election.
In 2008, Burton S. Odelson, partner in the Odelson and Sterk law firm, filed a defamation lawsuit over comments Welch made on the blog called Proviso Insider.
Cook County Judge Eileen Mary Brewer ruled Oct. 20, 2011, that Welch was liable for defamation and ordered compensation. She said Welch’s “statements are deemed defamatory per se.”
Odelson is asking for $400,000 in damages along with lawyer fees. Welch is trying to negotiate for less. The settlement amount will be determined by a jury trial.
On Friday, Welch’s attorney was in court for a status hearing on the settlement before Judge Brewer. Both sides have been told not to talk to the media.
But in open court, Odelson’s attorney Michael Wall said Welch had tried to hide his involvement in the defamation by saying his female law clerk was responsible for the defaming comments.
“She was told by Mr. Welch that he would take care of everything,” Wall told the judge.
Emily Robinson, a former law clerk for Welch’s firm (Sanchez, Daniels and Hoffman) on Tuesday said she had no involvement with the blog post against Odelson and Sterk.
“I didn’t do it at all,” she said.
She would not comment further on the case.
In court Wall said a sworn deposition was filed that says she did not write the blog post.
Wall said Robinson agreed to the deposition because she didn’t want the incident to negatively impact her aspirations of becoming a lawyer. Robinson was a law clerk at Welch’s law firm from 2007 to 2009 and is now a practicing attorney.
During the hearing Wall reiterated that Welch and his attorney owed fees because Welch has been sanctioned by the court for disobeying rules of discovery orders in the past.
Meanwhile, Welch’s attorney, Edward Ordonez, requested financial information from Wall to contest the request for compensation.
Ordonez also asked the judge to consider Odelson and Sterk as a public figure, a factor in Welch’s defense.
Ordonez has also requested several witnesses be interviewed who will testify to the reputation of the plaintiff in terms of his honesty and integrity. He plans to be ready to do this over the next 21 days, prior to their next court date which is March 22.
Along with Welch, Ordonez said he is also representing Ron Anderson in the suit. Anderson is the building manager for Proviso Math & Science Academy.
Last year, the Proviso District 209 school board voted to pay $400,000 to settle Welch’s lawsuit and to give his lawyers another $40,000, based on an opinion that Welch was covered under the district’s liability insurance. However, a state-appointed financial oversight panel rejected that claim and refused to allow the district to pay for the settlement.