Still grinding along

The Madison County Record Sep. 17, 2006, 8:55am

Except when they're aiming for the back cover of a phone book, lawyers aren't known for their smooth and readable prose. We guess it figures, as their writing isn't typically for broader consumption but, rather, deep and cantakerous dissection.

Maybe that explains ex-Judge Gordon Maag's enduring ire over rhetoric from a campaign flyer he claims sealed his electoral demise two years ago. He cannot appreciate its metaphor because he's never used one himself.

Alas, the question before the Fifth Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon last week-- by fall of 2004, had Gordon Maag really brought "the wheels of justice to a grinding halt"?

That was the claim made on the flyer's cover, superimposing those words over a picture of a rusty gear-- ostensibly the actual "wheel of justice" itself. That's the one Maag was-- allegedly-- halting.

Maag himself denies the claim. He says justice in Southern Illinois did not, in fact, ever come to a grinding halt because of him. His lawyer, Rex Carr, argued the flyer was a "lie," charging he and his client are due $110 million in damages for their troubles.

They might have added that, truth be told, justice doesn't even "grind" in the first place. There is no steel (or rusted) machinery involved in our justice system at all-- no omniscent "wheel" dispensing justice, but instead just a bunch of precedents, statutes, and laws to review.

Maag knows this, of course, as he was once behind-the-scenes himself. Today, he's known as the first sitting appellate judge in Illinois history to get swatted off the bench.

Now, we don't mean to suggest that Maag was physically swatted off the bench, like a basketball knocked into the stands by Shaquille O'Neal's giant palm, or like you'd do to that pesky wasp trying to get a taste of your coke. No-- he just lost a retention vote. The people of Southern Illinois refrained from voting 'yes.' That's how they rejected Maag-- with a single punch of their ballot.

By "rejected" we don't mean in the broader and more humiliating sense, like a pretty girl might "reject" a boy asking for a date. Voters didn't actually say "Gordon Maag-- we reject you!" nor did they reject him completely as a human being. They just didn't vote for him for judge, that's all.

And thank God they didn't. Literally.

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