Reflections in the Golden Eye...Part II

John J. Hopkins Nov. 12, 2005, 6:00am

With the publication of the Halloween column using the "Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" as its inspiration, I have now tendered a total of 17 columns to the Record.

Over the weekend of Nov. 5-6, I took the time to review the previous year's work, as Randy Bono's replacement as "Guest Columnist." My first column appeared on Oct. 30, 2004, and the most recent was Oct. 31, 2005.

To quote the Grateful Dead, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

I titled my fifth column, "Reflections in the Golden Eye," based on a Marlo Brando-Elizabeth Taylor film. By then, I had settled into the movie theme motif, and used this time to assess the reactions to and discussions of the initial Sidebar efforts.

Now, with 12 more columns under my belt, I again feel the need to "take a look back on the road traveled thus far..."

I have used the movie parody theme and feel it to be comfortable and distinctive, allowing me a creative outlet to vividly illustrate what are oft times obscure and obtuse points of law. As before, I truly appreciate the Record for giving me the forum, as well as the feedback, pro and con. It is the lifeblood of an opinion columnist.

I have heard from as close down the street and as far away as both coasts. God bless Al Gore for inventing the Internet.

In the course of the past dozen months, columns seem to touch nerves, some outraged, some brought a cheer or even a tear, or a laugh or two. Without question, some of my favorites also sparked the most response. The column chastising the Governor for his lack of moral courage in not vetoing the med mal bill, "A Man for No Seasons," drew reactions from all over the state of Illinois, overwhelmingly positive to say the least.

On a very personal note, the salute/roast of retiring Judge Kardis, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," received a request for an autographed copy, happily complied with...

The more personal columns, the eulogies to Pope John Paul II, "The Shoes of a Fisherman," and my most personal column, "Requiem for a Heavyweight," the sad goodbye to Bob Becker, clearly drew the largest, most personal and heartfelt response.

For that I am truly grateful and humbled.

Far and away, on a strictly numbers basis, the majority of Sidebar columns have fought the good fight against the wave of hysteria over the phony medical malpractice "crisis."

In column after column, I tried--obviously in vain--to set forth the truth, and hope for rational thought and courage to hold the day. But, unfortunately, this was not enough.

As the expression goes, "Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you." I was disappointed in the so-called reform bill, but life goes on, and so must I.

The reality is that with the medical malpractice fight all but over, the slanderous "judicial hellhole" reputation for a host of reasons fading away--to quote Supreme Court Justice Karmeier at the swearing in of Don Weber, "I have always known that the judges in Madison County are some of the finest in the state"--and the diminishing role of my predecessor in legal matters, there is an ever dwindling supply of raw materials for your local legal correspondent.

But wait...just when the well was seemingly about to run dry, there appears on the horizon a whole treasure trove of subject columns in the upcoming Circuit Judge race, all wrapped up with a bow and waiting to be explored.

On that subject, two observations, and one modest proposal.

First of all, my congratulations to Don Weber on his selection by the Supreme Court as the appointed Circuit Judge, filling out the balance of the Kardis term until December of 2006. While I certainly have not been a close or even social friend of the newly selected Judge Weber, I do sincerely wish him the very best. I hope that he will indeed do his very best for the people of Madison County...all of the people.

I do not believe that any so-called baggage, real or perceived, should factor in the analysis, as everyone deserves a clean slate at the start. What happens afterwards, and how that plays out remains to be seen, but the new Judge deserves every benefit of the doubt at the beginning.

Secondly, while my preference in the race is a matter of record, being for Hylla does not mean condemning Weber.

All matter is relative, and it does not elevate the judiciary to have mud slung at either candidate, from any direction, from any source, at any time. A more troubling notion is the prospect of large sums of money from outside the area coming in to influence a strictly local election. Thus cometh the modest proposal.

It would be my modest proposal that in this election for a Resident Circuit Judge of Madison County, that both candidates pledge to accept only local contributions, and by local I mean from this area, the 3rd and 20th Circuits and St. Louis.

This would stop the flow of money from PACs and other organizations trying to influence this strictly local issue.

It would cut both ways, while candidate Weber would be forced to forego Sugar Daddy Ed Murnane and the Illinois Civil Justice League, candidate Hylla, who has friends and co-counsel relationships in many states, would likewise be geographically restricted.

I know that this is a bit naive and unrealistic, but a repeat of the Supreme Court race cannot be allowed to happen. I urge both camps to seriously think about this modest proposal.

The integrity of the judiciary, as well as the public's trust in the political process will most certainly be enhanced if enacted.

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