Karmeier's 'Avery' vote won't be heard by U.S. Supreme Court

Ann Knef Mar. 8, 2006, 6:36am

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week refused to hear whether Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier's participation in a landmark ruling in favor of State Farm Insurance was improper.

In August, Karmeier's pivotal vote helped overturn a $1 billion judgment against State Farm. The Supreme Court ruled that a Williamson County Circuit Court erred in certifying a nationwide class, Avery v. State Farm.

Avery alleged that State Farm breached its contracts with policy holders by repairing vehicles with inferior parts and it violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by concealing that practice.

Liberal leaning public interest groups, such as Common Cause, objected to Karmeier's participation in Avery, asserting that he had accepted campaign donations from State Farm's lawyers and executives. They argued that campaign donations can taint contests, and threaten the foundation of the courts and the rights of litigants.

Lawyers for State Farm denied that the company gave any money to Karmeier.

"This court should reject (their) attempt to salvage some part of their case by improperly impugning the integrity of Justice Karmeier and the Illinois Supreme Court," attorney for State Farm Sheila Birnbaum wrote in a filing.

The most expensive judicial race ever waged in the U.S. was won in 2004 by Karmeier, a Republican. More than $9 million was spent between Karmeier and his opponent Gordon E. Maag, who was an appellate court judge.

Karmeier's funding largely came from business interests, while Maag's came from the plaintiff's bar.

On its website, Common Cause lists its objectives, among which include:

  • Increase the diversity of voices and ownership in media, to make media more responsive to the needs of citizens in a democracy and to protect the editorial independence of public broadcasting,

  • Advance campaign reforms that make people and ideas more important than money,

  • Make certain that our government is held accountable for the costs, in lives and money, for the invasion of Iraq.

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    Organizations in this Story

    U.S. Supreme Court
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    Washington, DC 20543

    Illinois Supreme Court
    200 E Capitol Ave
    Springfield, IL 62701

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