The Madison County Record Aug. 20, 2014, 7:16pm

Plaintiffs in a $7 billion suit claim State Farm led a conspiracy to recruit Lloyd Karmeier as a Supreme Court candidate in 2004, but State Sen. David Luechtefeld says he recruited Karmeier.

At a deposition on Aug. 4, Luechtefeld said he didn’t talk to anyone at State Farm while he recruited Karmeier or afterwards.

A lawyer asked Luechtefeld, “Did anyone from State Farm that you know of participate in the recruitment?” Luechtefeld said no.

State Farm lawyer Patrick Cloud of Edwardsville attached excerpts of the deposition to an Aug. 15 brief seeking limits on discovery that plaintiffs want to conduct from 2001 to the present.

The excerpts don’t identify the lawyers asking the questions.

Plaintiffs seek damages from State Farm, employee William Shepherd, and Ed Murnane of Illinois Civil Justice League in U. S. district court.

They claim defendants conspired to elect Karmeier so the Court would overturn a billion dollar judgment that Williamson County associate judge John Speroni entered in Avery v. State Farm, after a jury trial in 1999.

Jurors found State Farm violated a contract with policyholders by providing inferior parts for crash repairs.

Fifth District appellate judges affirmed the decision in 2001.

The Supreme Court accepted review in 2002, and heard oral argument in May 2003.

In November of that year, Justice Philip Rarick announced he would not run in 2004.

Karmeier ran against Fifth District judge Gordon Maag, and Karmeier won.

The Supreme Court wiped out the judgment in 2005, finding Speroni shouldn’t have certified a class and shouldn’t have applied Illinois consumer fraud to transactions in other states.

The Court denied rehearing, and the U. S. Supreme Court chose not to hear an appeal.

Plaintiffs sought to revive the case at the Illinois Supreme Court in 2011, arguing that the Justices should hear Avery again after disqualifying Karmeier under a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case from West Virginia.

The Justices rejected the revival, and plaintiffs filed their federal suit seeking civil penalties under racketeering law.

They alleged that State Farm misrepresented and concealed facts about its involvement in Karmeier’s campaign in pleadings it filed at the Supreme Court in 2005 and 2011.

Plaintiffs argue they are entitled to discovery dating back to at least 2001, when the Fifth District affirmed the Avery judgment.

According to Cloud’s brief for State Farm, the insurer proposed to produce materials back to November 2002.

He wrote that plaintiffs rejected the proposal without articulating the relevance of earlier information.

He also accused the plaintiff’s investigators of bias and dirty tricks, and he redacted more than a page of material that followed the accusation.

Luechtefeld's deposition underscored Cloud's points.

It showed that when a lawyer asked why he thought Karmeier would make a good Supreme Court Justice, Luechtefeld said “he always tried to do the right thing."

"I just had talked to a lot of lawyers who were both Republicans and Democrats, in particular in this county, St. Clair County,” he said. “They all respected him.

"He was somebody that both sides of the aisle thought came to do his job, and he tried to do it right. I can't think of a better background to be on the Court. He was a judge also, had that background.

"The problem was, would he do it, you know? I think that's a problem a lot of times in politics, finding good people who will do the job, because those people are not sure they want to put up with what they have to."

A lawyer asked if he spoke to (former State Senator) Frank Watson before he recruited Karmeier, and Luechtefeld said yes.

A lawyer asked if he spoke to anyone else before he started recruiting him.

Luechtefeld said, "Frank was the person that got me involved, and then I followed through."

The long running case took another turn on Aug. 13, when plaintiff lawyers withdrew Carly Morse of Maryland as a plaintiff.

They offered Mark Covington of Mississippi as a substitute, identifying him as a member of the Avery class.

State Farm has reserved the right to object to the substitution.

Mark Hale of Oneida County, New York, continues as lead plaintiff. Todd Shadle of Dallas, Texas, continues as second plaintiff.

Chief District Judge David Herndon presides over the case.

Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams, responsible for discovery, plans a conference on Aug. 27.

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