Will a Maag shuffle thwart the will of voters?

Ann Knef Nov. 5, 2004, 7:02am

Circuit Judge Anne Callis

Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis

Plaintiff's Attorney Randy Bono

Will Gordon Maag, who lost retention to the 5th Appellate Court, resign his seat before his term expires Dec. 6 so that a Madison County Democrat can be ushered in?

Or, will he finish out his term and allow his Republican rival, the newly elected Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, to make the pick?

Ed Murnane, director of the Illinois Civil Justice League, doesn't believe the former "scheme" is a likely one.

"I don't believe the Supreme Court would participate in that kind of gamesmanship," he said. "Tampering with the system would thwart the will of the voters who clearly rejected Maag and clearly rejected the system. Voters sent a loud message that they are not happy with business in Madison and St. Clair Counties."

The potential exists for Maag to step down so that outgoing Illinois Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rarick, whose seat on the bench will be filled by Karmeier, can quickly appoint a replacement to serve on the Appellate Court until 2006. The justice from the district in which a vacancy exists suggests an appointment and traditionally the whole court sides with the recommendation.

Another expert, director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbodale Mike Lawrence, agrees that packing the court for Madison County trial attorneys would go against the will of the electorate.

"The voters have spoken," Lawrence said. "I think the court would raise questions about itself if it was engaging in something not pure. The judiciary in Illinois has taken some blows with this election. If I were on the Supreme Court I would be careful about causing further damage."

Precedent for such political maneuvering exists.

When State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) lost his congressional bid against John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in 1996, it left him without a public office. In that same election cycle, Democrat Glenn Bradford, a Madison County trial attorney, narrowly defeated Republican Mario Garcia in the race for the 112th State House, the job Hoffman left in pursuit of higher office.

Bradford resigned from office less than a year into his term as state representative, Oct. 26, 1997. The next day, Hoffman was appointed to replace Bradford. A few days after that, Bradford was retained by House Speaker Michael Madigan to provide legal services. His contract was terminated in March 1998 after Madigan admitted Bradford performed no services.

With a clear mandate delivered in the election, Murnane is doubtful the Madison County Democratic machine would try to pull off a quick shuffle.

"It may be wishful thinking on the part of the old establishment if they think they can scheme this," he said.

During the campaign, Karmeier had criticized the composition of the 5th Appellate Court, stating it was weighted too heavily with Metro-East trial lawyers. Karmeier, who is from rural Washington County, indicated he would seek nominees from throughout the district's 37 southern Illinois counties.

In addition to Maag's vacancy on the Appellate Court, Karmeier will likely consider another vacancy when he is sworn in on Dec. 6. Judge Clyde L. Kuehn, a Belleville Democrat, was filling a two-year vacancy created when Rarick was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court two years ago.

Opinions vary as to possible scenarios that could unfold in the event of an early Maag resignation. Several sources who asked not to be identified suggested the following:

Scenario 1:

Madison County Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis, who had a brief stint on the Madison County asbestos docket and was reassigned to the Granite City Court, would move up to the 5th Appellate Court. In his stead comes asbestos trial attorney Randall Bono of the East Alton firm SimmonsCooper.

Bono and SimmonsCooper contributed heavily to Maag's election effort.

Scenario 2:

Madison County Circuit Judge Anne Callis, daughter of Granite City attorney Lance Callis, moves up to the 5th Appellate Court. No word on who would be tagged as her replacement on the circuit.

Lance Callis reportedly would like to see his daughter be appointed to the appeals court. Granite City attorney Morris Chapman's daughter, Melissa Chapman, serves on the 5th Appellate Court.

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