Maag to argue defamation claim in September

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 17, 2006, 10:40am

Gordon Maag

Former Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Gordon Maag, who is appealing a dismissed defamation suit, will argue next month that a campaign flyer damaged his reputation to the tune of $110 million.

A hearing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 in Mt. Vernon, the court where Maag was once employed.

Maag filed suit in Madison County in December 2004, shortly after he lost his election to the Illinois Supreme Court and retention to the Fifth District Appellate Court.

The lawsuit names the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, its chairman Ronald Gidwitz, and treasurer Gregory W. Baise, as well as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, as defendants.

Maag complained that a campaign flyer distributed in Madison and St. Clair counties in October 2004, identified as, "Wheels of Justice," defamed and injured his reputation. The flyer stated, "Gordon Maag's record on crime: embarrassing-and dangerous."

Seventh Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley, who was assigned to the case by the Illinois Supreme Court after Madison County Chief Judge Edward Ferguson asked for an out-of-county judge, dismissed the case on June 10, 2005.

"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," Kelley wrote in his order to dismiss. "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."

In the suit, Maag claimed that the defendants knew the statements made in the flyer were false.

Maag claimed that as a result of the statements in the flyer--for which he was claiming damages of $10 million--he suffered personal humiliation, mental anguish and suffering. He claimed that he has lost large sums of money in earnings from his prior position as appellate court judge and earnings from his profession, and has lost and will continue to lose health benefits and pension benefits.

Punitive or exemplary damages in the amount of $100 million were being sought because statements were false and malicious and defendants knew they were false, and intended to harm him, according to Maag.

"Had Maag been a private citizen and not a candidate for political office, the flyer would constitute 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.

Four months after Kelly dismissed the suit, Maag's attorney Rex Carr filed a similar suit in federal court.

In his federal lawsuit filed Sept. 30, 2005, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Maag names 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 Manufacturing 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.

That case is currently on hold pending the decision of the appellate court.

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 Supreme Court
200 E Capitol Ave
Springfield, IL 62701

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

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