Will County Judge John Anderson granted a motion by Phil Flores’ substitute attorney to set aside the default judgment against him.
Mar 9, 2023 7:47 PM CST | Updated March 9, 2023 8:04 pm CST
JOLIET, IL — The law firm Itasca, which defended former Crest Hill Police Officer Phil Flores in a federal civil rights lawsuit from 2018 to 2021, has convinced Will County Judge John Anderson to overturn a recent default order against Flores. The Joliet resident failed to appear at his recent hearings at the Will County Courthouse in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Samantha Harer’s parents last October.
According to a three-page filing filed March 2 by attorney David Mathues of Hervas, Condon & Bersani, “Flores has always denied and has denied plaintiffs’ allegations and allegations that his girlfriend Samantha Harer tragically took her own life. “
Mathues noted that the Will County lawsuit, filed by New York civil rights attorney Jennifer Bonjean on behalf of Kevin and Heather Harer, “is a continuation of a previously filed lawsuit in federal court.”
According to Mathues, all of the plaintiffs’ claims against municipal defendants Channahon and Crest Hill were dismissed in a series of rulings by federal judges, and “the federal court has ceded its jurisdiction over the state’s claims against Felipe Flores, the sole defendant in this case.”
Former Crest Hill Police Officer Phil Flores is facing a wrongful death lawsuit in Will County, filed by Samantha Harer’s parents. Image via Crest Hill
Since then, Samantha Harer’s parents have filed state lawsuits alleging wrongful death in the Will County Courthouse. Mathues told the Will County Judge that his law firm had defended Flores in the federal lawsuit, while Channahon and Crest Hill had their own attorney.
When Flores’ court documents were served from Will County, Mathues was unsure if his law firm would continue to represent the former Crest Hill police officer. “Flores was informed of this fact and went in search of his own attorney,” wrote the Itasca attorney.
Flores reached attorney Amil Alkass of O’Flaherty Law and Alkass agreed to represent Flores, who “paid him a substantial sum upfront and agreed to pay an additional sum in installments,” Mathues explained.
According to Mathues:
“Flores believed that Mr. Alkass would represent him and anticipated that Mr. Alkass would file a motion or motions before the first court hearing on the matter, which Flores said was February 10, 2023. However, Flores has repeatedly attempted to contact Mr Altass in recent weeks. Mr. Alkass has not responded to any communications from Flores.”
On February 10, Flores noted that “Mr. Not only did Altass not appear on his behalf, as Flores expected, but a default judgment was entered against him. As of the filing of this application, Mr. Flores has not heard a response from Mr. Altass regarding representation,” Mathues noted.
Last week, Mathues appeared on behalf of Flores in the Will County case to protect Flores’ rights and “request this court to set aside the default judgment rendered on February 10, 2023.”
Itasca’s attorney noted that a court order can be overturned within 30 days and “as the court knows, such requests are routinely granted.
The former Crest Hill officer’s assistant attorney asked Anderson to give Flores an additional 45 days “to allow Flores adequate time to determine how he will be represented in this matter.”
During Wednesday’s Zoom hearing, Anderson agreed with the defense and overturned the default judgment he entered against Flores on Feb. 10. The judge gave Flores 45 days to file its response regarding Bonjean’s lawsuit.
During a phone interview Thursday, Bonjean told Joliet Patch that she and Samantha’s parents want a trial in Will County. They didn’t want to see the case end in a default judgment.
In December 2018, the Channahon Police Department announced that Harer’s death was ruled a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“The tragedy is that the case was not properly investigated, but this trial must ultimately serve to unearth the truth and provide the family with the answers they have long awaited,” Bonjean said.
According to his attorney profile, Alkass has been practicing law in Illinois for more than 20 years and his expertise includes divorce and family law, crime and misdemeanor defense, traffic defense, immigration, Illinois DCFS investigations and more.
On Thursday, Joliet Patch interviewed Alkass about Flores. Alkass said he wasn’t aware his name was mentioned in Will County court records this week. Alkass told Patch that Flores did not formally engage him as legal counsel.
As for the Feb. 10 court hearing before Judge Anderson, where the judge entered the default judgment against Flores, “we were not detained or paid,” Alkass said.
Related Samantha Harer post-patch coverage:
Family lawyer Harer: “The lawsuit was never about money”
Phil Flores shot, killed Samantha Harer in jealous rage: new lawsuit
Samantha Harer: That’s why Flores wasn’t interviewed again
Judge John Anderson is presiding over the wrongful death complaint of Samantha Harer against former Crest Hill police officer Phil Flores. File/John Ferak/Patch