Results matching “karmeier”

Illinois high court strikes down malpractice limits - PointOfLaw Forum

It's for the third time, and confirms that the court simply will not be bound by the duly enacted acts of the legislature when certain issues important to its lawyer constituency are at stake. I made these comments for the Heartland Institute:

"The court's supposed separation of powers rationale simply can't be taken seriously. Legislatures pass new laws prescribing the legal consequences of civil breaches all the time, and no one imagines that the court would have struck down this legislative intervention had it expanded damages as opposed to limiting them.

"At this point, if Illinois wants to put the voters and their representatives back in charge, it will need either to alter its constitution or--perhaps a better idea--alter the composition of its supreme court."

On page 21 of its opinion, the court has to confront the fact that the Illinois legislature has often limited common law damages in other circumstances without being found unconstitutional. An Innkeeper's Protection Act, for example, limits the liability of hotel owners to a fixed sum no matter what the value of the goods lost by the guest. The court absurdly seeks to distinguish this instance by noting that the innkeeper statute "also allows the parties to contract around the statutory limit." As if it would have upheld malpractice limits had they been paired with an option of contracting around the statutory limit!

The court's decision yesterday, like its earlier two decisions striking down medical liability limits, is lawless. It is best understood as a peremptory act of will and a power play in the familiar, if ugly, tradition of Illinois politics.

P.S. From the ABA: we disagree with the Illinois statute's policy content. Must be unconstitutional! More coverage: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Madison County Record, Dan Pero/American Courthouse. And a strong editorial reaction from the Chicago Tribune ("A disastrous decision"):

...The court threw out a sound law that has worked. The court threw out a sound law and essentially told the state's lawmakers: Don't even bother to try this again. ...

Justice Lloyd Karmeier, joined in a dissent by Justice Rita Garman, wrote that the court's wisdom in that previous decision "has not only been rejected by the federal courts, it has failed to carry the day in any reported decision in any other state in the United States since it was filed 12 years ago."

Nobody has recognized the wisdom of the Illinois Supreme Court on this matter ... except the Illinois Supreme Court.

Those judges of Madison County - PointOfLaw Featured Discussion

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.

Michael Krauss has already mentioned the ruling; he also discussed the case in more detail March 30. An earlier attempt by Weinstein to certify a tobacco class action was rejected by the Second Circuit in 2005. Today's ruling directly contradicts the Seventh Circuit's In the Matter of Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., Tires Products Liability Litig. ruling. Also worth reading is Justice Karmeier's concurrence (scroll down) analyzing an identical Illinois suit that the Illinois Supreme Court struck down after a bench-trial verdict for the plaintiffs.

Note that these light-cigarette class actions expressly disclaim personal injury claims; they are pure theories of "consumer fraud" that seek to aggregate plaintiffs whether or not the plaintiffs were actually misled by any alleged fraud, or suffered any injury. For much more on this subject, and the huge public-policy problems it creates, see Michael Greve, Harm-Less Lawsuits? What's Wrong with Consumer Class Actions, and Victor Schwartz's and Cary Silverman's recent, and very important, article in the Kansas Law Review, Common-Sense Construction of Consumer Protection Acts.

Rough Summer in Southern Illinois - PointOfLaw Forum

Class action lawyers have had a rough summer in Southern Illinois' Fifth District Appellate Court, which is the court that handles appeals arising out of Madison and St. Clair counties. The makeup and attitude of the court has changed considerably since the election of Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004.

On July 25, the court handed down two rulings in favor of Airborne Express (now DHL) and Intel. The Mt. Vernon Register-News reports the case against Intel will be moved to California court and the Madison County Record reports the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Airborne Express.

Earlier in the summer, the same court moved a St. Clair County Vioxx class action to Cook County, citing improper venue. See this previous post about Vioxx lawsuits in St. Clair County (IL).

(Cross-posted at ICJL Blog.)

Legal Reform: Progress...? - PointOfLaw Forum

Could it be that we're actually making progress on tort reform?

Maybe so, according to this editorial in the Champaign-Urbana (Ill.) News-Gazette. It notes that there has not been a single class action filed in neighboring "Judicial Hellhole" Madison County thus far this year. (In 2003, 106 were filed there). It credits both the Class Action Fairness Act and the election of Lloyd Karmeier to the Illinois Supreme Court. Says the News-Gazette:

"Thanks to the electorate � and no thanks to the judiciary � southern Illinois' judicial reputation has been greatly improved. That's a tremendous endorsement of the power of the ballot box."

Let's keep this in mind as election day 2006 draws nearer. It's a reminder both that elections have consequences and that we can make a difference.

[Cross-posted at]

The Illinois Supreme Court sent Price v. Philip Morris back to the lower court with instructions to dismiss the case. Michael Greve criticized the trial court decision in his monograph "Harm-Less Lawsuits?"

The Illinois Supreme Court, in a 4-2 vote, held that the Federal Trade Commission, through the use of two consent orders, had specifically authorized tobacco companies to characterize their products as "light" or "low tar and nicotine." It was thus improper to hold that manufacturers' labeling of their products per FTC regulatory requirements was "consumer fraud." Whether this decision will affect similar litigation in Massachusetts and Missouri is unclear.

The Court expressed "grave reservations" about the appropriateness of the class certification and the calculation of damages, but withheld decision on those issues as extraneous given the decision on the threshhold question that there was no consumer fraud. Justice Karmeier's concurrence (joined by Justice Fitzgerald) is devastating on the issue of actual damages and damages calculations, however, and leaves no doubt how a reasonable court would decide the question.

The Court based its decision on an interpretation of Illinois state law; thus, contrary to early Wall Street Journal coverage, there are no legitimate grounds for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the decision is final.

Earlier coverage: Feb. 10; Aug. 16, 2004; Jul. 20, 2004. And on Overlawyered Oct. 11, 2004; Apr. 30, 2003; Apr. 6, 2003; Mar. 24, 2003.

Update: Madison County's profit from the appeal bond Philip Morris posted for the privilege of defending itself in front of the Illinois Supreme Court is $9,963,008.58, according to the Madison County Record's analysis of the books. Philip Morris doesn't get that money back, nor the millions of dollars spent defending itself against the absurd Price litigation.

Speaking of slush funds - PointOfLaw Forum

A loophole in Illinois campaign finance law allowed lawyers to funnel money to nonprofit groups that then funded Gordon Maag's Supreme Court election campaign, while hiding the source of their funding. The Edwardsville-based "Justice For All Foundation" identified the sources of $561,000 it spent last year on the election: the bulk came from Randall Bono ($290,000) (Sep. 20, 2004); Stephen Tillery ($30,000) (OL Apr. 5, 2004); and the SimmonsCooper law firm ($215,000) (e.g., OL Jan. 5, 2004).

The Illinois Coalition For Jobs, Growth and Prosperity is facing a similar challenge for disclosure of its funding of Karmeier's campaign, but, unlike the Justice For All front group, the Coalition makes clear that it's a consortium of business groups. (Kevin McDermott, "Settlement reveals lawyers made big campaign donations", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 3).

Illinois campaign capers, cont'd - PointOfLaw Forum

Ryan Sager in the New York Post (which now requires registration) has more on how longtime activists in trial lawyer causes reinvented themselves as supposedly neutral campaign umpire/watchdogs during last year's Maag-Karmeier Illinois Supreme Court race, with help from some credulous media. Allen Adomite of the Illinois Civil Justice League comments as well. See Apr. 22 (liberal foundation assistance in the caper) as well as our many posts about the Maag-Karmeier race.

Illinois judicial recriminations - PointOfLaw Forum

Following up on our Sept. 10 report: this week Wayne Ewing, a documentary filmmaker from Aspen, Colo., is releasing a documentary about last year's Maag-Karmeier Illinois Supreme Court race and about the wider controversy over the courts of Madison County, Ill. Ewing "said Monday that his film sided with trial lawyers in the tort reform debate", according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ewing has also made films about the campaigns of West Virginia's Warren and Darrell McGraw (see Nov. 2, Nov. 3, etc.). (news release)(documentary).

The Illinois Civil Justice League is on the case, however, with a new report (PDF) (press release) showing that Ewing's film relies on various groups with longstanding ties to the plaintiff's bar. One quote:

According to the [1993 Chicago] Tribune article, 1985-86 Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President David Decker bragged about his group�s efforts at promoting anti-tort-reform causes, stating: "We aided in the formation of support groups like the Illinois Public Action Council and the creation of the Coalition for Consumer Rights."

IPAC, more recently known as Citizen Action/Illinois, is the state affiliate of US Action. The ICJL report traces some of the numerous links between these groups, a group called the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform which presented itself as a neutral watchdog group during the judicial election, and out-of-state groups such as the Center for Justice and Democracy.

Final thoughts on Maag, and next month's discussion - PointOfLaw Forum

Finally, I do want to note that I think the entire Maag-Karmeier race shows just why we shouldn't popularly elect our judges. Politics comes into the appointment process too, of course, but it's simply impossible to explain to the general public in political soundbites reversals and remands, the exclusionary rule, the sixth amendment right to confront a witness, or the fourth amendment protections against illegal searches. Ted reminds me that such issues can confound journalists, who we presume to be better informed than the average voter: "A good example of this was the Bork hearings, where Bork was forced to describe basic Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence, and his neutral descriptions of such things as the 'compelling interest' test made lay journalists think he was a madman."

In addition to the inability to explain legal doctrines in a political campaign, there is real potential for corruption. And such corruption is extremely dangerous: We expect self-interested factions to try to attempt to influence legislators -- hopefully neutralizing each other, as Madison suggests in The Federalist Papers -- but when judges become susceptible to outside influence, and our neutral, impartial arbiters of the law become the arms of interest groups, we threaten the very rule of law itself.

So, what's to be done? Well, David Rottman at the National Center for State Courts has done a lot of interesting research on judicial election and appointment systems, as has Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University and the weblog Marginal Revolution. They'll be here next month for our newest featured discussion, "Elections and Selections." Stay tuned!

More on Maag - PointOfLaw Forum

My comments yesterday on the Gordon Maag defamation suit have stirred up more commentary over at the Legal Underground, where Evan Schaeffer originally made the posting to which I responded. Interested readers may wish to check it out, since both Ted Frank and I give some new details about the Marcus Jackson case, in addition to more thoughts about the defamation suit.

I do want to say, though, that it just seems to me that Evan and his commenting allies Mike and "1L" (who are in or just out of law school, from what I can tell) are missing the forest for the trees. This is was a very nasty race. As Ted pointed out on overlawyered back in October, both sides were reprimanded by the Illinois State Bar Association for deceptive negative ads.

According to the Brennan Center, Karmeier and his backers spent $2,713,822 on 3,588 television advertisements and Maag and his backers spent $2,576,320 on 3,765 TV ads. Many of those ads were nasty, inflammatory, and lacked full context (see, e.g., here, here, and here). Maag's ad alleging that Karmeier had granted "probation" to a child rapist and molester "[d]espite prosecutors'objections" was particularly deceptive; Karmeier had originally sentenced the criminal to seven years in jail and only reduced the sentence to probation after he was overruled from an appellate court. So Maag's ad insinuates that Karmeier is soft on crime, when in actuality in this case he was reversed on appeal for being too tough on the criminal.

Lose an election? Sue, of course - PointOfLaw Forum

Back in November, we covered the Gordon Maag/Lloyd Karmeier Supreme Court election in southern Illinois (see Nov. 5, 4, 3, 2). Maag, the trial-lawyer-backed candidate, not only lost the Supreme Court race but also (in an Illinois first) his retention election to the Court of Appeals.

Now Maag is fighting back in the way he knows how -- he's suing. Maag is seeking $110 million ($10 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages) from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity, along with the latter group's president and treasurer. Maag alleges that an election flyer produced by the two groups was defamatory.

(via Bashman)

Cost of Maag/Karmeier race - PointOfLaw Forum

Also per the same Post-Dispatch article: "The race set a national record in campaign contributions for a judicial contest," with the candidates raising comparable amounts, $4,301,156 for Karmeier and $4,231,664 for Maag.

Doctors and the Madison County results - PointOfLaw Forum

Reader Daniel Shinkle of Lawrenceville, Ill. writes:

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting: "The election of a Republican to the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday was a disaster for the Madison County plaintiff's bar, says longtime prosecutor Don Weber."

Doctors in this part of Illinois who had never been politically active have been telling their patients that the medical community is in crisis and asking them to vote Karmeier. Most of these doctors will probably never be organized politically, but right now, they are angry and worried -- worried about their own livlihoods and about their communities. Most of them could move to another State, sign up with a clinic there, work less, and make more money. They don't want to do that. This election tells them that people are starting to support them.

For more, see this morning's post on Overlawyered.

Illinois judgeships - PointOfLaw Forum

A reader writes:

The Maag loss might have more of an effect on the Fifth District in Illinois than many, including myself, first thought. A story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports another 5th District Judge, Judge Clyde L. Kuehn, is a temporary judge who will be off the court by next month, and by tradition, the first order of business for Karmeier will be to appoint successors to both Maag's and Kuehn's seats. That would likely be a pretty significant shift in the Fifth.

Karmeier wins in Illinois - PointOfLaw Forum

As Walter posted last night (congrats on an outstanding liveblog!), the Illinois Supreme Court race in southern Illinois between Gordon Maag (D) and Lloyd Karmeier (R) was one of the most followed in the country. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows Karmeier with an apparently insurmountable lead, and other media outlets and the Illinois Civil Justice League, a strong Karmeier supporter, have declared him the winner.

As noted by the Post-Dispatch, the Maag-Karmeier race was the most expensive in judicial election history, nationally:

Karmeier, a Washington County circuit judge reported raising $4,291,863 and 5th District Judge Maag reported $3,482,141.

An additional $2 million poured into the two men�s campaigns from outside groups raising money on their own.

A money quote:

Maag�s financial backing came largely from Madison County trial lawyers, who defended the current court system, saying it provided speedy justice to thousands of plaintiffs from across the country.

Of course, while Madison County does provide "speedy" resolution to plaintiffs, "from around the country," to call the results there "justice" is a stretch. Those in tort reform circles are well aware that Madison County is the epitome of the "magnet court" phenomenon nationally, as we've documented in three separate Manhattan Institute studies (here, here, and here). The American Tort Reform Association calls the county the top "judicial hellhole" in the nation.

The Maag-Karmeier race represents a big push back from the business community; Karmeier's win is a big victory for tort reform forces.

P.S. According to the Madison Record, Maag is also losing the retention election by which he would have retained his current appellate judgeship if not elevated to the higher court. He "received 55 percent 'yes' votes. He needed 60 percent to keep his position."

Maag-Karmeier race in Ill. - PointOfLaw Forum

One of the two most hotly contested judicial races in the country, from the standpoint of litigation reformers, is that between Democrat Gordon Maag and Republican Lloyd Karmeier for an Illinois Supreme Court seat representing a district in southern Illinois that includes famed heaven-for-plaintiffs Madison County. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has numbers; the race is still too early to call with 5 percent of precincts reporting, Karmeier has an edge. If you click on the "candidate biography" for Maag, you find that he adopts the protective coloration of a litigation reformer to the point where you'd hardly dream he was the one being backed by the high-rolling trial lawyers. The Illinois Civil Justice League is also following the race and is displaying different numbers which give Maag the edge. For more on the race, see Overlawyered, Mar. 20, Aug. 29, and Oct. 22. More: ICJL says Karmeier wins.