class actions, disabled rights, copyright, attorneys general, online speech, law schools, obesity, New York, mortgages, legal blogs, safety, CPSC, pharmaceuticals, patent trolls, ADA filing mills, international human rights, humor, hate speech, illegal drugs, immigration law, cellphones, international law, real estate, bar associations, Environmental Protection Agency, First Amendment, insurance fraud, slip and fall, smoking bans, emergency medicine, regulation and its reform, dramshop statutes, hotels, web accessibility, United Nations, Alien Tort Claims Act, lobbyists, pools, school discipline, Voting Rights Act, legal services programs


November 06, 2006

Those judges of Madison County

By James R. Copland

I promised an entry on the upcoming elections in and around Madison County, Illinois -- that infamous jurisdiction we've highlighted in 3 Manhattan Institute studies (here, here, and here) and our recent Trial Lawyers, Inc.: Illinois report. Rather than giving you my take, I'll give you this extensive look by Ed Murnane, who as the president of the Illinois Civil Justice League -- the main legal reform group in the state -- is very close to these races and has a view from the inside:

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of Madison County Round II -- a.k.a. the judicial elections in Southern Illinois two years after the historic Karmeier-Maag race –- is the likelihood that Madison County Round III is only two years away....

That long-term forecast is likely to be reality because of the recent death of Illinois Appellate Judge Terrence Hopkins, who served on the Fifth District Appellate Court, based in Mount Vernon. That’s the same court where Gordon Maag served and where present Appellate Justice Stephen McGlynn is fighting to hold off Maag’s pals and win the seat for the next ten years.

It does not get easy in Southern Illinois.

But enough about the future (maybe a bit more later). The present is here and we're into the final critical days -- yikes, it's really only hours -- to learn if the success of 2004 will be repeated in 2006. At this stage in 2004 –- three days out -– we were virtually certain that Lloyd Karmeier was going to be elected to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Today, it is not as certain that Justice Steve McGlynn will hold on to the Appellate seat he was appointed to by Karmeier.

As in 2004, the dollars are huge and costly television ads have been competing with ads for statewide candidates. Since Southern Illinois is primarily served by non-Illinois television markets, voters in Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana are once again learning about Illinois judicial candidates, just as Illinoisans are learning about governors and senators from strange places.

Here's the situation: Steve McGlynn, a St. Clair County lawyer, was appointed to the Appellate Court by Justice Lloyd Karmeier to fill the vacancy created by the ouster of Appellate Judge Gordon Maag. (The appointment authority is one of the best aspects of being a Supreme Court justice.) According to the law and the process, McGlynn served until the next election (that's this year) and then has to seek a full ten-year term. Judicial elections in Illinois are partisan so the Republican McGlynn is looking to the same traditional Republican sources for financial support. And the Democratic challenger, a Saline County judge named Bruce Stewart, is looking to the same traditional sources that Southern Illinois Democrats always look to: organized labor and plaintiffs' attorneys. Did we mention plaintiffs' attorneys?

Stewart has a few things going for him that McGlynn does not. He has been a trial judge for the past ten years, while McGlynn has been practicing law. And he is from Saline County in the very southern reaches of the state (almost to Kentucky) while McGlynn is from St. Clair County –- the junior partner of the despicable "Madison and St. Clair Counties" axis.

It was not happenstance that a non-Madison-St. Clair candidate was selected by the still-powerful plaintiffs' lawyers. They can read tea leaves, as well as public sentiment and voter instincts, so they selected a non-Madison-St. Clair candidate, especially after Justice Karmeier selected McGlynn of St. Clair County, even if McGlynn has nothing to do with the problems of St. Clair County.

Both sides have pumped thousands of dollars into the fray, although on a slightly smaller scale than the 2004 festivities. Most of the Karmeier supporters (ourselves included) have contributed heavily to McGlynn and the plaintiffs' lawyers are solidly with Stewart.

Adding to the mix in 2006 is a handful of other judicial elections that all revolve around the same issue, i.e. fixing what's wrong in Madison and St. Clair counties (if there is anything wrong, a question answered firmly in the negative by the establishment forces).

One of the critical and entertaining second tier elections is for a circuit court (trial court) seat in Madison County. Justice Karmeier appointed a former Madison County state's attorney to fill the vacancy and seek a full term this year. The Democrat-trial lawyer establishment picked a prominent local asbestos lawyer as their candidate. Republican Donald Weber and Democrat David Hylla are setting spending records for an Illinois circuit court seat, as are McGlynn and Stewart at the appellate court level.

One Madison County plaintiffs' firm, SimmonsCooper, already has contributed more than $160,000 to Hylla's campaign. Weber has no such sugar-daddy (we're helping as much as we can) and is being vastly outspent. But if Weber is able to remind voters in Madison County that the same dark forces they fought in 2004 –- and defeated -– are back again, he can win.

Another interesting Madison County battle is the fight for "retention" being waged by three sitting judges who must win the approval of 60 percent of the voters to stay on the bench. The three, including Chief Judge Ann Callis, a former plaintiffs' attorney and daughter of one of the legends in Madison County, Lance Callis, have promised reforms in the courthouse. They have acknowledged problems and mistakes and actually seem to be sincere. Our political action committee decided not to take a stand -– recommending neither a "vote yes" nor a "vote no." We'll let the local voters decide if they think the trend is in the right direction.

Just south of Madison County, in St. Clair County, a circuit court race of a different kind is taking place. Judge Lloyd Cueto decided he could not get the 60 percent needed to be retained so he is running in a contested race for his own seat. Although not as closely tied to the plaintiffs' lawyers in Madison County, Cueto is none-the-less friendly to them and reform-minded activists want him out. He is being challenged by a relatively unknown but courageous lawyer named Paul Evans, who doesn't have a lot of money but looks like he could pull it off. We are doing everything we can to help him.

There are 100 other counties in Illinois –- Madison and St. Clair are not the only two. We have a large one named Cook County with a fairly major city as its county seat. There are more than 80 judicial candidates running in Cook, mostly from Chicago but some from the suburbs, and we are watching them closely.

But somehow, none of it ever seems as interesting and significant as what happens in Madison and St. Clair Counties. And after the ink dries on this year’s ballots, they’ll be lining up and raising bucks for the 2008 installment: Madison County Round III.

Those interested in more information on the Illinois races should check out the Illinois Civil Justice League's, which promises information today, tomorrow, and through tomorrow night on these and other races in the Prairie State.

Posted at 11:00 AM | TrackBack (0)




Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.