Stop wasting our money and time

The Madison County Record Jan. 2, 2005, 8:33am

East Alton plaintiff’s attorney Thomas Maag has apparently decided to drop a silly slander lawsuit he filed against Steve Tomaszewski, a former aide to newly-elected Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier.

The son of Karmeier’s opponent, former Appellate Court Judge Gordon Maag, Thomas Maag had claimed that Tomaszewski caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages to his reputation by telling people that a Collinsville lot wasn’t his when it was.

Or something like that.

So as these nonsense tort stories typically go, after filing the case with a bang, garnering headlines in major newspapers and the like, Thomas Maag’s lawsuit is going out with a whimper.

But it shouldn’t.

And neither should the ridiculous $110 million slander lawsuit filed by Maag’s father, Gordon, when it gets tossed out on its merits in a few months.

Now is an appropriate time to examine the true nature of knee-jerk lawsuits like these as well as their actual cost to each and every one of us.

Filing a civil lawsuit--that is, enlisting the power and authority of government as a weapon against someone else--is supposed to be an action of last resort. It implies the heaviest of artillery, intended for major, weighty disputes.

We have a problem so long as our courts allow plaintiffs like Maag & Maag to file such civil complaints willy-nilly as a course of first resort and without repercussions.

Real victims with real injuries and real claims get to wait while serial suers use our courts to bully their enemies, like their personal 'muscle.'

This happens because lawyer-plaintiffs like the Maags can file and file with impunity and at little or no cost.

But guys like Steve Tomaszewski have to mount a defense on their own dime. As innocent as they may be and as frivolous the charge, they need to retain and pay a lawyer. Just answering a complaint can cost a defendant hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

For Maag & Maag, there is no meter running. They can file and move and charge and allege, all the while driving up the cost to a defendant digging into their own pocket.

Meanwhile, taxpayers get their own bill. Judges and bailiffs and clerks don’t work for free.

We'll suggest a 2005 resolution for the judges of Madison County: get tough with those select sue-happy lawyers making a mockery of our justice system.

Then perhaps the “crying wolf” would stop, and the people would begin seeing civil justice around these parts as serious business again, finally.

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