By Travis Akin -
The release of the annual “Judicial Hellholes” report from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) once again paints a grim picture of Illinois. With three “Judicial Hellholes, the Land of Lincoln has become the “Land of Lawsuits.”
ATRF defines a “Judicial Hellhole” as “a place where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner.” According to the 2013 report, Madison and St. Clair Counties are ranked jointly as the nation’s fifth-worst “judicial hellhole,” while Cook County was placed on the “Watch List,” ATRF’s second tier of “judicial hellholes,” which the group defines as “jurisdictions that bear watching due to their histories of abusive litigation and which run the risk of dropping into the hellholes abyss.”
Illinois’ status as one of the country’s worst ‘judicial hellholes’ makes it difficult to attract badly-needed jobs and opportunities because businesses look to move to places where the legal system is fair, and having one the most unfair lawsuit climates in the country is clearly keeping businesses and the jobs they bring from moving to Illinois.
Illinois’ unemployment rate of 8.9 percent is the fourth highest in the country. The website “Governing” recently ranked the Illinois economy as the sixth-worst in the country while neighboring Iowa was ranked the second best economy in the nation.
Not surprisingly Illinois also ranks 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness in a recent report from the non-partisan Harris Research Company. Illinois’ lawsuit climate ranked beneath every bordering state including: Indiana (14), Iowa (10), Kentucky (38), Missouri (34), and Wisconsin (15).
The link between Illinois’ culture of lawsuit abuse and the economy could not be clearer. Illinois has a broken court system that is creating lawsuits, not jobs. Judges need to take steps to restore fairness and common sense to Illinois courts to help create an environment of job growth and job creation.
Illinois lawmakers also need to enact badly-needed lawsuit reforms. While Illinois continues on a course of inaction when it comes to lawsuit reform, surrounding states such as Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa have taken significant steps to improve their respective legal climates. In contrast, Illinois lawmakers have made the state more attractive to personal injury lawyers by failing to follow the actions of neighboring states.
According to the study “Creating Conditions for Economic Growth: The Role of the Legal Environment” which NERA Economic Consulting released in 2011 for the Institute for Legal Reform, Illinois could save up to $2.4 billion in tort costs and create between 54,000 and 147,000 new jobs by improving its legal environment.
Illinois needs jobs – not more lawsuits. The people of Illinois will continue to suffer until judges and lawmakers work to restore fairness and common sense in Illinois’ plaintiff-friendly “Judicial Hellholes.”
Travis Akin is executive director of Illinois' Law Abuse Watch.