Bench Cleared: 5 Madison County Judges And 1 From St. Clair Voted Out

From the Belleville News-Democrat

One St. Clair County associate judge and five Madison County associate judges will be looking for new jobs come July 1.

The circuit judges who vote on whether to keep associate judges have voted out Laninya Cason, who serves on the bench in St. Clair County, and the following judges who serve in Madison County: Duane Bailey, Ben Beyers, Donald Flack, David Grounds and Elizabeth Levy.

Bailey and Beyers are the only two African-American judges on the bench in the 3rd Judicial Circuit, which is composed of Bond and Madison Counties.

Cason also is African-American. She’s the only associate judge who was not retained in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which covers St. Clair County. In recent years, Cason switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

Cason received a dismal score in the latest Illinois State Bar Association poll, a 45.83, in the overall category of “meets requirements of office.” In a recent interview, Cason said the poll of attorneys is a poor measure of a judge’s performance, and suggested that her party switch could be one factor for her score.

“I have been honored and blessed to have served the residents of St. Clair County with honor and integrity for 12 years,” Cason said Thursday. “My first priority has always been to be fair and impartial to the public I serve.”


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Opinions


Litigation Tourism Is Bad For Illinois

By Mark Behrens

Illinois has a nationwide reputation as a prime destination for “litigation tourists.” Each year, people without a meaningful connection to Illinois flock to the state to file lawsuits in the hope of a big payout. Illinois law makes it easy for plaintiffs to forum shop and sue in counties with a reputation for jackpot justice.

The problem is particularly bad in Madison County, which has become a magnet for asbestos lawsuits generated by TV ads in Texas and other states. Plaintiffs today file asbestos lawsuits in Madison County for the same reason the prolific bank robber Willie Sutton is said to have robbed banks - because that is where the money is. According to the Illinois Civil Justice League, Madison County asbestos injury lawsuits settle for upwards of $2 million each, and collectively could produce nearly $600 million annually in fees for plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The Madison County courthouse is home to perhaps one-third or more of all asbestos lawsuits filed in the entire U.S., although only 10 percent of the plaintiffs live in Illinois and far fewer actually live in Madison County. Forum shopping abuse is a key reason the American Tort Reform Foundation has called Madison County one of America’s top “Judicial Hellholes.”

The problem of distant plaintiffs suing in the Land of Lincoln is not unique to Madison County. Nearby St. Clair County is also a frequent destination for out-of-state plaintiffs.

In Cook County, nonresident filings are on the rise too. Likely drawing cases from other counties, Cook County has a little over 40 percent of the state’s population but almost 64 percent of the litigation. Plaintiffs are drawn by the fact that verdicts in Cook County are four times greater-an average of almost $1 million-than the surrounding four counties of DuPage, Lake, Kane and Will.

The filing of lawsuits by far flung plaintiffs in Madison, St. Clair, or Cook Counties is a strong indication that the playing field is uneven in these places. Plaintiffs obviously perceive a litigation advantage there or they would sue in their home courts.

As a consequence, citizens in these counties bear a disproportionate burden. When residents of Cook, Madison or St. Clair Counties suffer harm, they may be forced to wait for justice because someone from another state or county has taken a trial slot. For some, justice delayed may be justice denied. As the volume of cases increases, so does the need for more jurors. Illinois residents should not be forced to take time away from work or family to serve as jurors in cases that belong in a different state or county. Many jurors may go uncompensated by their employers during this time and will receive only $50 a day after the second day of service under a new law that is effective June 1.

Read the entire commentary…

News Update


Rauner Vetoes state Budget, Cites $4 Billion Deficit

From the Springfield State Journal-Register

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the remainder of the state’s operations budget Thursday, saying it was out of balance and unconstitutional.

Rauner took the action a day after approving a bill that provides funding for elementary and secondary education and will allow the state’s public schools to open on schedule this fall.

The Republican governor previously threatened to veto the spending plan the legislature’s Democrats sent to him because it is up to $4 billion out of balance.

In an op-ed piece published Thursday by the Chicago Tribune, Rauner wrote that he was sent to Springfield by voters to “end the era of unbalanced budgets and runaway debt.”

“The road back to fiscal sanity starts today with my veto of a budget that is nearly $4 billion out of balance and includes no reform,” Rauner wrote. “Rather than repeating the mistakes of the past — just kicking the can and raising taxes without real reform — now is our chance to transform Illinois to make it more competitive and compassionate.”

Rauner also repeated his demands for workers’ compensation changes, tort reform, pension reform and other changes as necessary components of fixing the state’s fiscal problems.

Rauner’s action comes just days before the start of the state’s new fiscal year. Without a budget in place by Wednesday, the state won’t have the authority to spend money on new expenses. However, the state will still be able to make payments on its backlog of bills incurred before then.

Read more in our daily News Update…