Maag casts much wider net, brings new $110 million defamation suit to federal court

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 3, 2005, 9:26am

Gordon Maag

Nearly four months after a state judge tossed out former 5th Appellate Court Judge Gordon Maag's $110 million post-election defamation suit, he's taking the matter to federal court.

But this time, the candidate who lost his race for Illinois Supreme Court and retention to the appellate court last year--and then sued his detractors--is casting a much wider net.

In a new $110 million defamation lawsuit filed Sept. 30 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Maag is suing the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ronald Gidwitz, Gregory Baise, Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Manufacuring Association, Illinois Civil Justice League, Illinois Business Roundtable and IMA Service Corp.

Maag also named the American Tort Reform Association, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Ed Murnane, Jeffrey Mays, Gerald Roper, Douglas Whitley, Murphy, Pintak, Gautier, and Hudome Agency, Alfano Communications, Mentzer Media, John Pastuovic Communications and TC Marketing as respondents in discovery.

Maag claims statements made in campaign flyers allegedly described him as an individual unfit to hold judicial office.

The defamation suit Maag filed Dec. 20 against the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, its chairman Ronald Gidwitz and treasurer Gregory W. Baise, as well as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce over similar allegations, was dismissed on June 10 by Seventh Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley.

In both cases, Maag has alleged statements contained in flyers, such as "Gordon Maag's record on crime: embarrassing--and dangerous," were false, inaccurate, and incomplete and the assessments were erroneous.

He claims the defendants knew the statements were false or had no reasonable basis for believing the statements to be true.

Maag is represented by Rex Carr of East St. Louis. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge David Herndon, a former Madison County Circuit judge. Herndon is a former partner of Maag's current employer, Thomas Lakin, founder of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.

According to the suit, Maag now resides in Alabama. He formerly resided in Glen Carbon.

According to Maag, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce assumed the leading role in the campaign of false and defamatory attacks, which was waged by the Chicagoland Chamber.

"It (U.S. Chamber) provided money, advice, and assistance to facilitate the publication of the false and defamatory statements made about Maag in order to present a coordinated message that Maag was unfit as judge; was unethical; lacked integrity; was unqualified in his profession; sold his office for campaign contributions; released murderers, drug dealers, and sexual predators to prey upon the general public and was devoid of basic human decency," the complaint states.

Maag claims the statements were made maliciously and with evil intent to injure him without just cause or excuse and the statements were published with conscious or reckless disregard of the truth.

"These statements caused or contributed a significant number of voters in the Fifth District to vote against his retention, and by reason of such vote, he was not retained in his profession as appellate judge," the complaint states.

Maag also claims he has suffered personal humiliation, mental anguish and mental suffering.

Maag also claims he has lost, and will continue to lose, large sums of money in earnings from his prior position as an appellate judge, $163,100 per year for a minimum of 10 years, amounting to a minimum loss of $1,631,000 and lost and will continue to lose health and insurance benefits, with a value in excess of $200,000 and will have his pension benefits reduced by more than $1 million.

"Because the statements made and published by the defendant were false and malicious and defendant knew they were false and malicious and intended to harm Maag, an award of punitive, or exemplary damages should be made in the sum of $100 million to punish defendant for its malicious actions and to deter them and others from similar conduct in the future," the complaint states.

When Judge Kelley dismissed Maag's suit in June he wrote, "The court can sympathize with Maag's displeasure with the flyer, it harshly criticizes a number of his rulings in a crass and unreasonable manner, and no judge in the State of Illinois could look at the flyer and not find it appalling."

"But the issue here is not whether materials such as the flyer are appropriate in judicial campaigns that perhaps is for others to decide.

"The issue is much more narrow, does plaintiff have a cause of action for defamation based on the contents of the flyer? The court finds he does not."

"Had Maag been a private citizen and not a candidate for political office, the flyer would constitue defamation because it imputes both an inability to perform the duties of office or employment and a lack of ability in his profession," Kelley wrote.

05 CV 711 DRH

The Madison County Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Illinois Chamber of Commerce
215 E Adams St
Springfield, IL 62701

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