State Supreme Court Justice Appears To Have Narrow Win In Retention Race

From the Chicago Tribune

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier hadn’t declared victory as of Wednesday, but by the slimmest of margins he appears to have staved off a furious, last-minute effort by plaintiffs’ lawyers to unseat him.

A spokesman for Karmeier’s campaign said the judge received 60.6 percent of the vote cast in his 37-county judicial district in southern Illinois, according to the campaign’s unofficial calculations. He needed 60 percent to stay on the court for a second 10-year term.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the justice’s numbers will hold and maybe even increase as provisional, absentee and military ballots are finished being tabulated,” said Ron Deedrick, Karmeier’s campaign manager.

Deedrick later told The Associated Press he’d be unsurprised if Karmeier’s opponents sought a recount or sued over the results.

“It just seems to be sometimes what these parties do,” Deedrick said. “Some parties are just playing out the election from 10 years ago,” when Karmeier first was elected to the high court after a tight race that cost the two candidates more than $9 million, shattering state and national spending records for a judicial seat.

Seeking to bounce Karmeier from the bench, several attorneys and law firms in mid-October launched the “Campaign for 2016” that state records show collected more than $1 million ultimately poured into television commercials, automated calls and mailings that labeled Karmeier too tight with business.

At least $500,000 of those contributions came from two attorneys for the Korein Tillery law firm with offices in St. Louis and Chicago.

Stephen Tillery, a St. Louis-based principle of Korein Tillery, is seeking Karmeier’s recusal from the Supreme Court’s consideration of an appeal of a decade-old $10.1 million class-action verdict against Phillip Morris USA. A lower court ruled in Tillery’s favor over the nation’s biggest cigarette maker’s marketing of “light” and “low tar” designations.

Karmeier was the only judge on the seven-member court who was up for retention. In Illinois, Supreme Court judges are elected to 10-year terms on a partisan ballot and then run on a nonpartisan retention ballot after their initial terms.



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

Obama Sets Immigration Rollout For Tonight

From the Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama will lay out sweeping changes to the immigration system in a speech Thursday night, offering new protections to millions of people in the country illegally and sparking a bitter fight with Republicans.

The executive action is expected to shield as many as five million illegal immigrants from deportation and offer them a chance for work permits, while overhauling the enforcement system and boosting border security, people briefed on the plan said. It would represent the most significant changes to U.S. immigration policy in nearly three decades, though it would fall far short of the comprehensive legislation supporters have been trying to pass since the George W. Bush administration.

GOP reaction was swift and sharply negative, with Republicans saying the president is overstepping his authority, refusing to work with Congress and ignoring the will of voters, who this month delivered the GOP control of both houses of Congress. The White House cast the issue as an urgent policy priority.

“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long,” Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House’s Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. He said he would use his authority to “make the system work better.”

The moves, and the GOP response, will likely extinguish an already dim chance of legislative action on immigration. Republican leaders, buoyed by their Senate win and stronger hold on the House after the midterms, warned that cooperation on other matters would be more difficult, as well.

Read more in our daily News Update…