The Madison County Record Mar. 5, 2014, 8:49am

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier will contest any subpoena that lawyers serve him in a civil racketeering suit against insurer State Farm, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams.

In a scheduling and discovery conference on Jan. 31, Williams brought up the subject after telling lawyers how to resolve disputes.

“One issue that has been raised already on more than one occasion would be, for example, a deposition of a sitting justice on the Illinois Supreme Court,” Williams said.

“I don’t know when anyone intends to start going down that road, but I’m told that that’s a road that we’re going to go down. That’s going to require somebody being subpoenaed, of course, and there is going to be a motion to quash that subpoena, and there’s going to have to be all kinds of briefing from all sides.”

Class action lawyers sued State Farm in 2012, claiming its secret and improper support of Karmeier secured his victory in the 2004 election.

They named Karmeier backers Ed Murnane and William Shepherd as defendants.

They claimed Karmeier tainted the Court so deeply that in 2005, a majority reversed a $1 billion judgment against State Farm.

Williamson County associate judge John Speroni had entered judgment in 1999, after jurors found State Farm supplied inferior parts for crash repairs.

The current suit seeks to recover the amount of the judgment with 14 years of interest and triple damages, bringing the total to many billions.

Chief District Judge David Herndon presides over the case, with Williams handling pretrial action.

Williams said he recognized that a subpoena of Karmeier is a “sensitive issue.

“I don’t know when that’s going to come up, but like anything here, what I don’t want to have happen is for this to be a surprise to anybody,” he said.

“With respect to any deposition, I would hope that the sides aren’t going to just send out subpoenas or send out notices, noticing depositions for some time two weeks away without talking to everyone else. That’s not going to help get anything resolved in an expeditious manner.”

Last year, Herndon denied State Farm’s motion to dismiss and a motion to reconsider.

State Farm petitioned Seventh Circuit appellate judges in Chicago to stop the proceedings, and the Seventh Circuit rejected the petition in January.

Williams then held a conference call with 10 lawyers, setting a deadline for a class certification motion for April of next year.

He said discovery would be complete by September of next year.

“The court is going to allow substantial discovery to proceed, and I’m not going to restrict discovery to any particular issues,” Williams said.

He set trial for January 2016.

At the Jan. 31 hearing, Gordon Ball of Knoxville, Tenn., Robert Nelson of San Francisco, and Chicago lawyers Steven Blonder, Robert Clifford and Colin Dunn represented plaintiffs.

Joseph Cancila of Chicago and Patrick Cloud of Edwardsville represented State Farm.

Richard O’Brien and Scott Berliant of Chicago represented Murnane.

Russell Scott of Swansea represented Shepherd.


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