Fear and loathing in Madison County

The Madison County Record Feb. 27, 2005, 8:32am



Gov. Blagojevich

Class action hari-kari

One week after the signing, and the class action lawsuit pipeline in Madison and St. Clair Counties has slowed to a crawl.

This begs the question: did the local class action law “experts” whose hyper-filing gave our courts their national designation in fact, gorge themselves to death?

President Bush sure suggested as much in his speech while signing the Class Action Fairness Act. And inquiring minds around the courthouse think so.

“They always wanted more,” one Madison County lawyer told Dicta.

Even if the exploits of Stephen Tillery are indeed gone forever, the man himself isn’t going anywhere just yet. The Belleville attorney filed nine class action lawsuits on Friday alone.

Plenty yet to chew on for 2005.

Judging the judges

Woe is the Madison County associate judge who upsets the wrong powerful people.

Voted in or out by “secret ballot” of the Circuit Court judges, those who get ‘uppity’ might end up with a surprise knife in their back. Judge Daniel Stack—now in but once out during his associate days— could probably explain how that feels.

So Dicta sources were aflutter after Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn shockingly ruled to overturn a jury verdict in the case of Cecil Dial.

Dial, 18, wanted $3.75 million for injuries suffered after he jaywalked and was hit by an SUV near Edwardsville Middle School.

A jury found that the SUV’s driver, Brad Joiner of Glen Carbon, could not have avoided the accident and thus was not liable. It awarded zip to Dial and thus nothing to his attorney Roy Dripps of the powerful East Alton Lakin Law Firm.

And that’s the rub. Did Mendelsohn overturn the verdict because he’s afraid of upsetting the one of the top dogs in town?

We’ll never know for sure of course. But local lawyers are asking the question, and wondering why “secret ballots” for judge aren’t already a relic of the past.

The Lakin Firm gives gobs to Madison County Circuit Court judges, who are elected and can feel the heat. Shouldn’t we all know whom they choose to do their judicial dirty work?

The angler

Metro East mega-millionaire asbestos attorney John Simmons donates lavishly to Illinois Democrats far and wide.

Now, thanks to St. Louis Post- Dispatch’s Springfield budget sleuth Kevin McDermott, we can see how the state’s highest-ranking Democrat hopes to return the favor.

In this year’s state budget, McDermott reported, Governor Rod Blagojevich has included a $3 million grant to help Simmons build a stadium for his planned minor league baseball team in Marion, until now best known as the place where New York mob icon John Gotti served his prison time.

We’ll note that the state budget line item would most accurately read “John Simmons political development grant,” as it helps him build good will in an area where he’ll soon care far more about votes than ticket sales.

Simmons is rumored to be planning a run against U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), who represents Marion and much of Southern Illinois in Washington, D.C.

As for baseball, we’re huge fans. But one cannot miss the irony of a lawyer who made a fortune suing industrial employers touting a minor league team as “economic development” for the deeply depressed region.

Can you say "bread and circuses"?

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