METRO-EAST - A new study released jointly from grassroots legal watchdog group Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) and the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) shows that Illinois personal injury attorneys invested over $35 million into legislative and judicial candidates over the past 15 years.
The study, titled “Justice for Sale,” details the staggering sums personal injury lawyers have lavished on judges and legislators in an apparent attempt to stack the deck in their favor and block lawsuit reform efforts, the groups say.
“We now have 35 million reasons why Illinois continues to attract lawsuits and personal injury lawyers from all over the country while as a result shedding jobs to neighboring states,” said Travis Akin, Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. “This new study proves that personal injury lawyers are gaming the system to their advantage by funneling millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Illinois judges, who continue to allow junk lawsuits that have nothing to do with Illinois to move forward here, prompting the question, ‘Is justice for sale in Illinois?’”
John Pastuovic, President of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said the results of the study show "a methodical march of money that is truly staggering."
The $35 million in contributions equates to roughly $264 in donations given every hour of every day for the past 15 years.
Madison and St. Clair counties in the Metro-East region of Illinois have been perennially ranked as two of the worst “Judicial Hellholes” in the country due in large part to the close connections between area judges and the personal injury lawyers who operate there. In one example, Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder was removed from her role over the asbestos docket in late 2011 when it was revealed that plaintiffs’ attorneys who had given $30,000 to her reelection campaign had been granted choice trial slots just a few days later.
“One of the most basic ways stop lawsuit abuse in Illinois is to elect judges who will stand up to the personal injury lawyers and say no to frivolous lawsuits,” Akin explained. “With their tremendous power over what takes place in their courtrooms, judges can help Illinois shed its reputation as a ‘plaintiff’s paradise.’”
Akin added that who serves on the bench matters.
"Electing good judges who apply doctrines of common sense and fairness will help stop lawsuit abuse in Illinois and help our state attract employers who currently don’t want to risk moving to a state where they’ll immediately have a lawsuit target on their backs," he said.
Akins then urged Illinois voters to support judges that will stand up to personal injury attorneys.
"On Election Day, voters will have a chance to deliver their verdict on judges who take the majority of their campaign funding from the personal injury lawyers who have turned the ‘Land of Lincoln’ into a job-killing ‘Land of Lawsuits.'"
The study revealed that 98% of the $35 million in campaign contributions personal injury lawyers have spent on judges, legislators and other politicians has gone to Democrats.
In the Southern Illinois-based 5th Appellate Court District, there are two open seat races this fall. In one, the two candidates are Brad K. Bleyer (D), who is currently a Circuit Court Judge and John R. Barberis Jr. (R), who is currently a Circuit Court Judge. In the other, Jo Beth Weber (D), who is currently a judge in Jefferson County, is facing off against James “Randy” Moore (R), who is currently a Circuit Court Judge.
In addition to looking at spending on judges, the new study also details how personal injury lawyers have spent big on state legislative races in an apparent attempt to block common sense lawsuit reforms from moving forward in Springfield.
“Creating new and meaningful jobs is the solution for nearly every other major issue facing Illinois today,” said Akin, “and the best way to start to turn around Illinois is for voters to elect legislators who will embrace Governor Rauner’s proposed lawsuit reforms, such as venue reform, to stop personal injury lawyers from venue shopping for favorable Illinois court jurisdictions.”
For more information on the new “Justice for Sale” report, as well as I-LAW’s efforts to restore common sense and fairness to Metro-East courts, visit www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.