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.


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Opinions


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.

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News Update


Lisa Madigan To Ask Illinois Supreme Court To Consider Pensions

From the Associated Press

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the state has a “very strong argument” in favor of its public pension overhaul when the case is appealed to the Supreme Court.

A Sangamon County circuit judge struck down the law as unconstitutional on Friday. Madigan told reporters in Chicago on Monday that she plans an “immediate” appeal and a request that the court quickly take up the case. The law was written to reduce pension benefits to close a $100 billion state pension debt.

State employees successfully argued in local court that the state Constitution prohibits benefit reductions.

The state says it has the power to take extraordinary steps during crises. Madigan says if the high court agrees to an expedited hearing, a ruling could come by January.

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