Ann Maher Feb. 7, 2014, 2:30pm

A newly entered discovery order sets the wheels in motion for a class action that accuses State Farm of violating racketeering laws through its involvement in the election of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams docketed the order Jan. 31 establishing a number of deadlines in the case playing out in the Southern District of Illinois. A class certification motion is due by April 22, 2015; depositions for expert witnesses for plaintiffs by July 10, 2015 and defense by Aug. 6, 2015. Discovery is to be completed by Sept. 4, 2015; dispositive motions filed by Sept. 30, 2015 and trial is presumed to be in January 2016.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon adopted the scheduling and discovery order on Feb. 3 and found moot an earlier motion to certify the class.

Plaintiffs also filed a motion on Feb. 3 seeking to appoint interim lead counsel W. Gordon Ball of Knoxville, Tenn. and Robert A. Clifford of Chicago as co-lead counsel.

“All parties agree that this is an extremely complex case that will require many lawyers working many hours to get it ready for trial,” the motion states. “[B]y appointing him interim lead counsel, this Court has already found that W. Gordon Ball is qualified to properly litigate this case as class counsel.”

The motion also seeks to appoint Steven P. Blonder of Chicago as liaison counsel.

Plaintiffs Mark Hale, Todd Shadle and Carly Morse claim that the Illinois Supreme Court improperly overturned a $1.05 billion judgment in a consumer class action, Avery v. State Farm, in 2005. In the new case - Hale v. State Farm - plaintiffs claim racketeering occurred when State Farm and Karmeier’s campaign committee worked together to recruit, finance and elect Karmeier to the Supreme Court so he would vote to overturn the Avery judgment against State Farm once elected.

The plaintiffs propose to represent a class that is identical to the one Williamson County Associate Judge John Speroni certified for Avery in 1998.  Their claim in Hale would triple the damages under racketeering law to $3.15 billion, with 14 years of interest.

Co-defendants in the case are William Sheperd, an attorney at State Farm, and Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League.

Karmeier’s 10-year term will expire in December. He has until May to file retention paperwork with the State Board of Elections for the upcoming November election.

Plaintiff lawyers have indicated they may depose Karmeier

State Farm lawyers have argued that “the destructive effects of this lawsuit will likely extend to the judicial election process as well.”

A status conference is set for March 28 at 9:30 a.m. via telephone before Williams.

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