Inquiring minds want to know

The Madison County Record Mar. 6, 2005, 10:16am




U.S. Rep. Bono (D-Alton)

It’s hardly Nick and Jessica or Jennifer and Brad, but what good fun speculating on the future plans of Madison County’s most famous trial lawyer.

Flush with cash and retired—at least for now–courthouse sources are telling Dicta Randy Bono has his eye on a public office.

Sources say Bono strongly considered another run for judge but has since set his sights on more political pastures like the U.S. Congress.

This comes on the heels of rumors that Bono partner and SimmonsCooper namesake John Simmons is also pondering a run. Both super lawyers would ostensibly face off with U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), widely expected to retire after his 2006 run.

Our take: Simmons cuts an imposing candidate but Bono would be much more ‘newsworthy’ and fun. And he’d prove quite a contrast to the straight-laced Shimkus.

Bono’s Madison County courtroom peers aren’t buying it.

“Randy is the poster child for Madison County,” one told Dicta. “He cannot win election as village trustee.”

He said, it said

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson pled Madison County's case to the state's largest business newsweekly, Crain's Chicago Business.

Ferguson took shots at business groups and President George W. Bush, suggesting their criticism of his home court is unfounded.

“If someone thinks that a judge is being outlandish in what he's doing, that he's not following the law, all they need to do is take that case to the appellate court,” Ferguson suggested.

His interview accompanied a Crain’s list of Illinois' largest known verdicts and settlements from 2004. And the Metro-East was well-represented.

In the top slot was tobaccomeister Stephen Tillery's settlement with Pfizer over the diabetic drug Rezulin, at $60 million, Illinois’ largest in 2004.

Madison County Judge Nicholas Byron presided over the case.

From St. Clair County court, Belleville attorney David Nester's $10.3 million settlement with Maytag Corporation made the list. Nester claimed the company's front-load washing machines were defective and produced foul odors.

And, Edwardsville attorney Michael Bilbrey's $4 million with A.W. Chesterton also received mention. The December case involved asbestos and suburban Chicago painter Luke Lindau.

Beast of burden

Madison County’s two eldest judges, Judges Byron and Andy Matoesian, have yet to be assigned a new case in 2005, leading some lawyers to speculate that both are preparing to call it a career.

Not so fast, says a Dicta source familiar with the county caseload.

“They’re just evening it out,” he said, adding that court’s case balance has been out of sync for some time.

Much of the imbalance surrounds the court’s many class action cases, once assigned to judges as part of the standard civil docket rotation. They’re now doled out carefully by Chief Judge Ferguson with an eye toward not “overburdening” one particular judge.

Was Judge Byron “overburdened” when he issued his $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris? You can be the judge.

Goin’ Down

Illinois is expected to hear more bad news when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce releases its Harris State Legal Fairness Rankings this week.

Out of 50 states, ours ranked as the "44th best" state court system for business, according to last year's ranking. Illinois has fallen ten places since 2002.

The “Harris Poll” surveys 1,400 senior corporate attorneys, asking which state courts are the most and least fair to business. This is its fourth year.

The Chamber, an investor in The Record, is releasing the full rankings at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday Mar. 8 at the James R. Thompson State of Illinois Building in Chicago.

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