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, . 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.



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

Bar Groups Split On Two Cook Retention Candidates

From the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Two Cook County circuit judges have received negative retention ratings from several bar groups.

But other members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, along with the Suburban Bar Coalition, believe Circuit Judges Ann O’Donnell and Laura Marie Sullivan should be supported by voters.

O’Donnell, who presides over felony preliminary hearings at 5555 W. Grand Ave., received a thumbs-down from the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the only alliance member providing written summaries of its evaluations.

She was the lone judge among 73 circuit or appellate judges up for retention Nov. 4 that received a negative rating from the council.

The council’s summary says many lawyers criticized O’Donnell’s judicial temperament “as being unduly flip, sarcastic and rude.”

The summary also says some lawyers criticized O’Donnell’s method within the past year of refusing to appoint an assistant public defender to a number of indigent defendants. Instead, she believed family members should have paid for a private lawyer.

In addition to the council, the alliance also consists of the Asian American Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Cook County Bar Association, Decalogue Society of Lawyers, Hellenic Bar Association of Lawyers, Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, Illinois State Bar Association, Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois.

Read more in our daily News Update…