Judge Vampire

The Madison County Record Apr. 2, 2006, 3:40am

Way back when The Record was a fledgling publication trying to earn respect around the courthouse, Chief Judge Edward Ferguson was seen picking up copies around the office and tossing them in the garbage.

He reportedly didn't like our endorsement of Supreme Court candidate Lloyd Karmeier, then running for the seat he currently holds versus Madison County's finest Gordon Maag. Trashing our print edition might serve to prevent the spread of such gospel, while ensuring fewer Third Circuit staff read our pages.

Glad that worked out for him.

Judge Ferguson took another shot at The Record last week, in response to our vigorous reporting on the lonely Judge Don Weber. Since being appointed to the bench last November, local plaintiff's attorneys have substituted for Weber, the only Republican on the Circuit Court, an astounding 92 times.

The Record was the first media outlet to write about Weber's plight, which has saddled the rest of Madison County's judges with overloaded dockets. State experts on the subject have expressed amazement that his judicial colleagues, even though all Democrats, might allow such a trend to continue.

But Ferguson, the man in charge of the court until May 1st at least, says the people shouldn't fret. This isn't a big deal.

The Record "(gives) greater and often undue importance to matters that are happening in the court system," Ferguson wrote, complaining about local press suggestions that the Weber substitutions are freely allowed due to a pro-plaintiff bias in Edwardsville.

"That promotes a perception that there is no integrity in the courts and I refuse to accept such a ridiculous allegation."

In all fairness, the Judge made his comments in an order denying substitution of Judge Weber in 14 cases involving the notorious Lakin Law Firm of Wood River. Its attorneys claim the judge is "biased" against them because the firm sued him 13 years ago over a photo Weber used in a book he wrote.

Ferguson can disagree, but these lengths to which plaintiff's attorneys have gone to avoid Weber's courtroom and why prove newsworthy to us.

When assigned Weber for one of his personal injury lawsuits, former Lakin attorney Thomas Maag even went so far as to ask a different judge, Barbara Crowder, to sign and enter an emergency order in the case, albeit without even notifying the defendant.

Did Maag purposely ignore the court's assigment of Judge Weber? Did Judge Crowder know what he was up to? Did she even ask?

Heading off a potentially embarrassing investigation, the wayward order was voided last week. But we'll still keep asking questions.

Because civil justice and our local courts are important. And there's nothing "undue" about it.

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