Baricevic, Haida And LeChien Spurn Retention Vote, Will Run In General Election

From the Belleville News-Democrat

Judges John Baricevic, Robert Haida and Robert LeChien have filed paperwork that they will retire in December 2016 but will run for their judges’ jobs in the November 2016 general election, where they need only a majority of votes instead of the 60 percent required if they ran for retention.

Baricevic, the chief judge, said by running in the general election he will not be barred by the Code of Judicial Ethics from bringing up topics such as the effect former judge Mike Cook’s heroin arrest and imprisonment had on St. Clair County’s judiciary and the prevalence of heroin deaths in the metro-east. Haida and LeChien could not be reached for comment, but Baricevic said they too will run in the general election.

Former circuit judge Lloyd Cueto did the same thing in 2006 — avoiding a retention election that would have required a favorable vote percentage of 60 percent.

John Pastuovic, president of the pro-business Illinois Civil Justice League, said his group opposed avoiding a retention runoff when Cueto did it, and is opposed to the current plan by the three 20th Circuit judges based in Belleville. The circuit covers five counties: St. Clair, Monroe, Perry, Washington and Randolph.

“We were against this when it happened before. We thought it was wrong in 2006 and we think it’s wrong now,” Pastuovic said.

“I guarantee it is not what the framers of the (Illinois) Constitution had in mind when they created the retention system for judges. It was their intent that judges, once they served, should meet that higher standard of a 60 percent retention. And while this is not illegal, it’s certainly not what the authors of the Constitution intended,” he said.

Steven Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University in Evanston, who has written widely on legal ethics, said: “I think it’s within the law and I think the voters will have a choice. I don’t see anything unethical about it. But it’s virtually unheard of.”



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

Class Action Lawsuit Targets Automakers For Keyless Ignition Dangers

From ABC News

Ten of the world’s largest automakers are facing a consumer class action lawsuit filed early Wednesday morning in California on behalf of millions of Americans who own or lease vehicles equipped with keyless ignitions.

“We’re filing this litigation because we feel like we need to do so to protect millions of Americans who are driving vehicles that have a safety defect that can kill them,” said Martis Alex, a New York attorney with the law firm Labaton Sucharow, who is leading the class action lawsuit.

Keyless ignitions have become widely available in recent years. The technology allows drivers to start their engines with an electronic key fob and the push of a button instead of using a traditional physical key.

At issue, the driver can take the fob far away from the vehicle, such as to the bedroom, while inadvertently leaving the car running and emitting carbon monoxide for an indefinite period of time without the key fob present. This can become especially dangerous – even deadly – when the car remains running in garages attached to a home. The suit says 13 carbon monoxide deaths have been linked to the cars.

It seeks an injunction ordering Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Kia to install what it claims is an inexpensive automatic shut-down feature on all affected vehicles. The suit further alleges some automakers have begun installing the “auto-off” feature on newer model vehicles, while leaving older keyless ignition models without an automatic shut-down capability.

Read more in our daily News Update…