This ship has sailed

The Madison County Record Jun. 24, 2006, 1:34pm

Yes, Madison County Judge Nicholas Byron as loudmouth is a repeat performance.

The 76 year-old's career in robes won't be remembered for genteel fairness on the bench but rather for his outbursts, both verbal and judicial, against businesses and defense lawyers. He's the man at the center of Madison County's most notorious moments-- presiding over our legendary asbestos hijinks, personally forcing the Philip Morris debacle, and brutishly barring a former U.S. Attorney General from his courtroom, to name a few.

Byron's latest antics, chronicled this week by our reporter Steve Korris, played like chapter one in what we pray is his farewell tour. Anointing himself the metaphorical "ship" of consumerism during a hearing on a class action case, he assailed the Illinois Supreme Court for its Avery ruling, alternately adoring and advising plaintiff's lawyer Bradley Lakin from the bench while presenting himself as anything but impartial.

"In spite of the innuendos and the harsh public statements that have been applied to your firm - harsh and without any basis at all - nevertheless I find your firm to have been very, very ethical and efficient in these matters," Byron fawned, before decertifying the lawyer's 2004 class action case against GEICO insurance with a frown.

Lakin's plaintiffs suffered no damages, but still claimed they were "cheated" by GEICO. Precedent bound Byron to rule that they didn't have a case.

"I don't think that ought to be the law, but unfortunately I am not a Supreme Court justice," Byron chimed, then suggesting Lakin shop his class action show to a friendlier state-- like Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York where the cases "would probably do better."

"I think you owe it to the consumer to take an appeal on it," Byron added.

Even a casual viewer of Court TV knows the judge's behavior here is inappropriate. But what does Byron care? He's term-limited out, too old to run for retention after his reign ends in 2008.

A silver lining is that so long as Byron sounds off, voters can witness him as a living example of the perils fraught with choosing activist judges. They don't know their place, and they cannot do our job. It's time to stop electing them.

Or quoteth the "ship" himself:

"It's time for the captain, whoever that captain is, to raise the warning flag. Send relief, please."

He asked for it.

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