Acting on the activists

The Madison County Record Feb. 20, 2005, 5:53pm

Madison County Circuit Court Judge George Moran had it right when he observed that his job alone is to “enforce the law.“

“It is not my job whether to say if it is right or wrong,” he told The Record, when asked his take on locally unpopular class action reform bill that had passed the U.S. Congress.

Calling all and any volunteers to hang Moran’s words on a piece of paper prominently in each Metro-East circuit court judge’s chambers. We’ll foot the bill for copies.

It’s been local ignorance of a simple, “law school 101” principle that has directly led President George W. Bush to make a national example of Madison and St. Clair Counties.

Legislatures make laws. Judges enforce them.


The Class Action Fairness Act, signed into law by Bush last week, isn’t about business “beating” trial lawyers or Republicans trumping Democrats. It’s about clarifying long-ago defined roles for our different branches of government.

Separation of powers was a strong concept that our Founding Fathers devised for good reason. And we’re guessing they never envisioned a day when a state court judge in Illinois could make public policy for a resident of all 50 U.S. states.

Madison County residents didn’t elect Judge Nicholas Byron to make laws in southern Illinois, much less in Colorado.

That judges like Byron cannot help but overstep their defined role to play cohort crusader explains why class action lawyers shopped their cases here in the first place. They’re looking for an ‘activist’ court, and in they Metro-East we’ve got them.

The class action reform signed by Bush orders that large federal class action lawsuits—involving customers from across the nation but so often filed in the state courts of Madison or St. Clair County—will move to federal courts.

And the act clarifies that local courts are for local disputes. A plaintiff from Ireland cannot sue a defendant from Canada in Edwardsville just because they like the cut of Judge Byron’s jib.

The net for all of us is that our local judges can get back to judging. That means enforcing laws, not making them.

For those in the robes who still have that itch, they can look forward to primary election season for seats on our state legislature, in full swing by this fall.

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