The Madison County Record Feb. 6, 2005, 11:37am

Shrinks the docket

Citizen lawyer

Didn't sue

Dead docket walking?

Asked last week whether Judge Daniel Stack’s early decisions boded well for his “side,” a veteran defense attorney shocked Dicta with his candor.

“It all doesn’t matter. Asbestos is dead in Madison County,” said the attorney, who travels here regularly from suburban Chicago.

That’s some consolation to the corporations still shoveling out settlement dollars at this very moment. But signs are many that the Madco momentum has shifted.

Cases in point-- even suits fronted by clout-rich plaintiff’s heavyweights like Korein Tillery and Texas-based Baron & Budd have been tossed out of Judge Stack’s courtroom on the grounds they don’t belong here.

Most relevant, sources tell Dicta, that Stack is far less committed to forcing settlements in asbestos cases than was his predecessor, Judge Nicholas Byron.

Byron rarely if ever granted motions to move a lawsuit out of Edwardsville. And he regularly warned defense attorneys of what a trial verdict could bring.

“(Byron) was always trying to force a settlement,’ one courthouse source told Dicta, suggesting that the judge would routinely put off ruling on such “forum non conveniens” motions as a means of keeping leverage over corporate defendants.

That said, others in the know are also feeling a sea change.

Cook County Law Division Judge William D. Maddux is predicting that a Madison County asbestos lawsuit decline will result in a many more cases in his court.

In 2003-04, 379 asbestos cases were filed in Cook County versus 1,430 in Madison County, which is about 1/20th the size of Cook.

Daily grind

That didn’t take long

Just as we predicted, former 5th Appellate Court Judge and Supreme Court candidate Gordon Maag is back behind a desk at Lakin Law Firm.

Dicta confirmed his new home with a call to their Wood River offices.

The Lakin Firm is Metro East’s most prolific filer of class action lawsuits and a huge player in Illinois politics. The firm gave $260,000 to the Illinois Democratic Party last election cycle, much of which was used on Maag's Supreme Court campaign.

No sign of Maag on the case just yet at the courthouse. We’ll keep an eye out.

Defensive medicine?

We here at Dicta try to stick to local dish, but on the heels of Super Bowl Sunday and a national debate over lawsuits this item couldn’t be ignored.

Philadelphia Eagles’ star Terrell Owens’ injured ankle—broken in early December-- proved the center of attention for media maniacs seeking storylines to hype the big game last week.

The question—would Owens suck it up and play against the Patriots, six weeks after his surgery?

Owens’ doctor made a point of announcing to the media that he would not clear his patient to play in the Super Bowl. Sports pundits theorized whether he might hurt himself worse. If he did, they asked, could he hold the team liable?

Here’s where we rewind and remember, letting perspective prove a point.

On the eve of Ronald Reagan's inauguration in late 1979, Los Angeles Rams’ defensive lineman Jack Youngblood broke his leg during the first half of a playoff game versus the Dallas Cowboys. He taped it up at halftime and continued to play, hobbling his team to an upset victory.

Asked last week by Sports Illustrated how team doctors even let him back on the field, Youngblood pointed out that his was a different era.

“First of all, this was in the days before malpractice,” he said.

No kidding.

Youngblood played two more games on that broken leg, including the Super Bowl. And he says he has no regrets.

Oh, the good ole' days...

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