The empire strikes back

The Madison County Record Nov. 12, 2006, 3:05pm

The trial lawyers re-seized lost Southern Illinois judicial turf last Tuesday night. So are they poised to start partying again in our courtrooms like it's 2003?

No doubt, businesses (a.k.a.-- their targets) here and elsewhere are battening down the hatches.

With the local electorate reverting to its one-party habits and their arch-nemesis Judge Don Weber headed for the exits, it's easy to imagine men like Brad Lakin and Stephen Tillery licking their chops. Will they use the holiday lull to plot a January class action salvo? Is it mass tort game-on once again in Edwardsville? Seems likely.

Consider that the asbestos impresarios at SimmonsCooper didn't shell out hundreds of thousands in campaign donations this cycle for nothing.

To the contrary, they shelled them out for something. Call it the advancement of that warped judicial philosophy that believes their ilk should be allowed to hijack local courtrooms for raw personal profit, or even get more direct-- the local trial bar paid up so they could get paid.

The revenue model is as subtle as it is official. File a frivolous lawsuit against a business with an agreeable, class warrior judge, and settlement is yours. There's no challenge and no threat of trial-- you file, wait and watch your office mailbox. Sometimes it's only $660,000, others it's a life-changing $19 million. All the worth it.

But file that lawsuit with a crank like Weber, and your argument and the details of your case-- including minor items like whether the plaintiff actually suffered damages or even knows they are party to a lawsuit-- get scrutinized.

Anyone whose read the cases routinely made by the Lakins of our world knows that, if anything, they aren't built to withstand intellectual scrutiny. More often than not, they're simply plagarized, cut-and-pasted types built in the name of quantity, not quality. Such is the Madison County legal tradition.

Whether it will continue to be we'll know soon enough. Maybe the trial bar has changed its ways since 2004 and we're just too pessimistic. Maybe new Chief Judge Ann Callis has enough strength to rein in the party. Maybe. Hopefully.

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