By Travis Akin, Executive Director, Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch -
The 2016 Election is over and voters have rendered their verdicts and have shown they want judges and legislators that will stand up to the personal injury lawyers and stop lawsuit abuse in Illinois.
In the final weeks of the election campaign, personal injury lawyers formed a front group PAC called “Fair Courts Now,” through which they funneled more than $1 million dollars that was spent in support of their favored candidates for two open seats on the Fifth District Appellate Court, which covers all of southern Illinois. Almost all of the money was spent on slick ads and mailers attacking the two judges that ultimately won these two races, Judge John Barberis and Judge James “Randy” Moore.
These wealthy personal injury lawyers have spent many millions over the past decade electing their buddies to serve as judges, but voters said, ‘Enough!’ Voters showed they want judges who will stand up to the personal injury lawyers and say no to lawsuits that have no common sense connection to Illinois. Voters want good judges who will help stop lawsuit abuse in southern Illinois and help the region attract employers who currently don’t want to risk moving to a place where they’ll immediately have a lawsuit target on their backs.
In another notable southern Illinois judicial race, voters voted out the chief judge of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit based in St. Clair County, long ranked as one of the worst “Judicial Hellholes” in the country by the American Tort Reform Foundation.
Chief Judge John Baricevic received national notoriety when he decided last year to circumvent the rules dictating that judges seeking another term must run for retention, which requires a 60% “Yes” vote. Baricevic attempted to game the system by announcing last year that he would not for retention, which would create an open seat race for that seat on the court. He then said he would run for election to that open seat he created – a race that only requires a 50% majority to win.
Chief Judge Baricevic wanted to change the rules mid-game for his own personal benefit. But like a football referee who blows the whistle on a penalty in a game, voters blew the whistle on a judge for unsportsmanlike judicial conduct and for transparently trying to game the system to his advantage.
In addition, several legislators who received strong from personal injury lawyers lost their elections as well. Voters sent a clear message to their judges and legislators, telling them lawsuit abuse must be stopped.
Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed lawsuit reform legislation that will restore common sense and fairness to our courts and help keep business from leaving for states that have fairer lawsuit systems. Personal injury lawyers have aggressively worked to build and maintain plaintiff-friendly courts in Illinois, which has resulted in a lawsuit abuse epidemic that is driving small businesses and jobs out of the state. The cure to this epidemic is much-needed lawsuit reform.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch will be watching closely in the months ahead to see if our legislators have heard the cry for reform from voters and will now stand up to the personal injury lawyers and pass common sense lawsuit reforms in the upcoming legislative session.
For more information, visit www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.