Illinois has long been known as a magnet for out-of-state lawsuits due to the plaintiff-friendly courts here that are aggressively targeted by wealthy personal injury lawyers. Those same personal injury lawyers have spent millions over the past decade electing their buddies to the bench, with some judicial candidates receiving over three-quarters of their campaign contributions just from personal injury lawyers and their law firms.
In one disturbing example of the cozy relationship between our judges and personal injury lawyers, a southern Illinois judge was caught accepting $30,000 in campaign contributions from three personal injury lawyer firms just four days after she awarded those firms over 82% of the following year’s coveted trial slots.
Personal injury lawyers have aggressively worked to build and maintain plaintiff-friendly courts in Illinois, which has resulted in a lawsuit abuse epidemic that is driving small businesses and jobs out of the state. It is important for voters to know which judges and judicial candidates are being supported or opposed by the personal injury lawyers.
A newly-formed group calling itself “Campaign for 2016” has just raised about $2 million to air attack ads opposing Justice Lloyd Karmeier in his upcoming retention election.
The personal injury lawyers have every right to oppose a judge, but voters should have that information when they head to the polls so they can decide whether a judge is likely to weed out frivolous lawsuits and apply common sense standards or allow personal injury lawyers to keep abusing our courts.
Judges have a great deal of power and impact people’s lives in a variety of important ways. Judges can throw out cases that have nothing to do with Illinois. Judges can also create a more balanced litigation climate, which will help reduce lawsuits and create jobs. That is why it is so important to vote in the upcoming judicial elections this November. Judges also have the power to sanction aggressive personal injury lawyers who clog our courts with frivolous lawsuits.
Judicial races are usually at the end of what can be a long ballot, and sometimes people just want to vote in the high profile elections and get on their way. But if we don’t take the time to vote in judicial elections, we have ourselves to blame for continuing lawsuit abuse in Illinois.
One good resource for voters looking to quickly gather information about judicial candidates, their positions and their campaign funders is IllinoisJudges.net, which posts responses to a questionnaire sent to every judicial candidate in the state.
Good judges matter, and it is critical we have judges who will stand up to the personal injury lawyers and transform Illinois from a magnet for lawsuits into a magnet for jobs. We all can do our part by taking the time to vote in all the judicial elections on the ballot this year.
Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.