Group Pushes For Better-Informed Votes On Judges

From the Associated Press

One Illinois group wants voters to be better informed about judges, who will be among the lesser known candidates on the November ballot.

The Illinois Civil Justice League on Tuesday is unveiling an initiative to provide biographies, ratings and other background on 158 sitting judges in the state seeking retention and another 69 candidates in contested races for seats on the bench.

Ed Murnane, the president of the organization, said in a statement that it’s critical that the electorate make educated choices about men and women who wield such power and influence.

“Unfortunately, too many people cast their vote on election day with little or no information on their candidates for judge,” he said. “Some close their eyes and pick … others choose not to vote at all.”

The organization, which is a not-for-profit coalition of various citizen, business and professional associations, is kick starting the project with the slogan, “Judges: Good and Bad — You Can’t Afford to be Indifferent.”

The league is posting responses to questionnaires from the candidates seeking retention and from others in contested races on the website, www.IllinoisJudges.net . The group will start including its own reviews of the candidates on the same site in October.

By Illinois law, judges seeking retention must garner “yes” votes from 60 percent of those casting ballots on the question.


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Opinions


Denial Can’t Mask Illinois’ Poor Lawsuit Climate

By Lisa Rickard, President, US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Denial is one of the oldest tricks around. When confronted with an uncomfortable situation, one common human instinct is to deny there’s a problem.

Recent commentary (available here and here) by Chicago plaintiffs’ lawyer John Cooney proves this point. As the president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and one of the state’s leading personal injury lawyers, he is troubled by calls for legal reform in Illinois. His response? Denying that Illinois has a lawsuit abuse problem.

Unfortunately, all of Cooney’s denials can’t change the fact that Illinois has one of the worst lawsuit climates in the nation. The state attracts litigation from around the country, while repelling businesses and the much-needed jobs they create.

In fact, businesses are the best people to ask about which states have good and bad litigation environments. In a survey of in-house business counsel commissioned by my organization, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), Illinois’s legal climate ranked 46th in the nation-lowest in the Midwest and ahead of only four other states nationally.

In addition, this ranking rated Cook County as the single worst jurisdiction in the country, while Madison County was ranked sixth worst. It should be no surprise that these counties ranked so poorly as they represent classic examples of “jackpot” jurisdictions.

Cook County has become a national hub for personal injury and product liability cases. Meanwhile, Madison County has become the nation’s top jurisdiction for asbestos personal injury lawsuits. With .09 percent of the nation’s population, Madison County accounts for more than 25 percent of the nation’s asbestos lawsuits.

Full Commentary.

News Update


Anti-retention Group Stops Payment On Checks Sent To Democrat Committees After Karmeier Campaign Files Complaint

From the Madison County Record

The organization seeking to oust Justice Lloyd Karmeier from the Illinois Supreme Court has advised the Illinois State Board of Elections that it mistakenly made payments to county Democratic organizations, but stopped payment on checks before funds were ever deposited.

Campaign for 2016 chairman Barzin Emami notified the elections board in a letter dated Wednesday that a $5,000 check to the Williamson County Democratic Central Committee and a $3,000 check to the Franklin County Democratic Organization were incorrectly reported as expenditures on a disclosure report filed Monday.

Emami’s notification to the board came the same day that Karmeier’s campaign issued a release stating the contributions broke campaign finance laws that prohibit independent groups like Campaign for 2016 from contributing to local political party organizations.

Illinoisans for Karmeier campaign spokesperson Ron Deedrick said a formal complaint was filed against Campaign for 2016 on Wednesday.

“These laws aren’t set up to allow shadow organizations of out-of-state lawyers to steal Supreme Court seats,” Deedrick said.

Karmeier is seeking retention to a second 10-year term in a district that encompasses the state’s 37 southern-most counties. To be retained, Karmeier needs 60 percent voter approval.

Campaign for 2016, which has so far received $1.9 million in contributions from six attorneys or firms, has been running negative ads in the St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Mo. and Paducah, Ky. markets. The advertising says that Karmeier voted to reverse judgments against State Farm and Philip Morris after the companies supported his campaign in 2004.

In 2005, Karmeier participated in decisions that overturned class action judgments of about $10 billion in Price v. Philip Morris, and about $1 billion in Avery v. State Farm.

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