ICJL begins judicial evaluation process; Big races for area voters

From the Madison County Record

The Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) has launched its 2014 judicial candidate evaluations process, seeking to keep voters informed about potential jurists who “can have a tremendous impact on the daily lives of the citizens of Illinois.”

Throughout last week, the ICJL distributed surveys to 69 candidates for election. Surveys to the 158 sitting judges who are seeking retention in November will be sent this week.

“It’s very important people pay attention to judicial elections,” said ICJL President Ed Murnane. “Illinois is one of the few states that elects judges on a purely partisan basis.”

Judicial candidates who respond to the survey will have their answers posted at IllinoisJudges.net. Candidates who decline to respond will be noted and publicized, according to Murnane.

“The judicial system in Illinois is very ignored,” said Murnane. “Very few people pay attention and there is little to no competition. People don’t know who these judges are and what they stand for.”

Once a judge or justice is elected, it’s very rare they are ever voted out office, Murnane said.

In the Nov. 4 general election, candidates seeking retention must get approval — or “yes” votes — from 60 percent of those casting ballots on the retention question. Candidates in contested races must receive more votes than his or her opponent.

“This is probably one of the poorest judicial selection processes in the U.S.,” Murnane said. “Judges have a tremendous impact on the daily lives of the citizens of Illinois. They have the right to take children away from families and sentence people to years in prison. People ought to know who these judges are.”

Even in groups of lawyers, Murnane says it’s a struggle to find an attorney who can name all the justices on the Illinois Supreme Court.

One Supreme Court election is on the ballot this year. Justice Lloyd Karmeier, Republican, is seeking retention in the Fifth Judicial District, which includes the 37 most southern counties in Illinois.

Terms for supreme and appellate justices are 10 years each. Circuit court terms are six years each.

In addition to keeping people informed, ICJL has submitted proposals to the state legislature in hopes of reforming the judicial selection process.



Legal Tide Turning Against Lawyers Who Profit Illegally From Class-action Lawsuits

By Lisa Rickard, US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Former plaintiffs’ superlawyer Stanley Chesley spent his 50-year career claiming to find justice for millions of his class-action clients, and from these efforts amassed great personal wealth.

This month, justice found the Ohio lawyer.

A Kentucky judge ruled Chesley and three others liable in a $42 million judgment for a scheme to take tens of millions of dollars from settlement proceeds in a class-action lawsuit against a diet drug manufacturer.

The now-disbarred lawyer’s infractions included helping to set up a phony charity to siphon off and hide some of the settlement money from his own clients.

Chesley is by no means the first such lawyer to be punished for doing wrong. In recent years, numerous powerful lawyers have been found guilty of using the law to help themselves rather than their clients.

Among them, securities class-action lawyers Bill Lerach and his former partner Melvyn Weiss, and Mississippi lawyer Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs, once known as the “king of torts,” all went to jail for illegalities related to their law practice.

And then there is the most recent example of Steven Donziger, the plaintiffs’ attorney who won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorean court.

In March, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Donziger “formulated and conducted a scheme to victimize a U.S. company through a pattern of racketeering” in the case, including bribing the Ecuadorean judge.

But beyond amassing (or attempting to amass) hundreds of millions — to billions — of dollars by corrupt means through litigation, their actions had another thing in common: the class-action lawsuit.

Read the entire commentary…

News Update

How Illinois Small Businesses Perceive The States Overall “Friendliness”

From Reboot Illinois

In Illinois, the State Government is failing to give small business any good vibes.

Small businesses are categorized by having fewer than 500 employees and comprise 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms, according to the Small Business Administration.

The “Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey,” in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, asked more than 12,000 small business owners across the country a range of questions to determine “the perception of friendliness” in each state, noted the Chicago Tribune.

Responses from 441 Illinois respondents were used to gauge the state’s letter grade; the results paint a grim picture for Illinois small businesses and the climate they must work in.

Illinois earned an F for overall friendliness–worse than 2013?s rank of D–though this time last year the unemployment rate was hovering above 9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read more in our daily News Update…