Callis touts reforms as ICJL featured speaker

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 19, 2007, 12:00pm

CHICAGO -- Before a gathering of national industry leaders and tort reform advocates, Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis on Thursday touted reforms she and her fellow judges in the Third Judicial Circuit have passed since she took over as chief judge in May 2006.

Callis, featured speaker at the Illinois Civil Justice League's annual luncheon in Chicago, told the pro-business group that the reforms were enacted with unanimous support from the circuit bench.

She said the first reform, introduced only three days after she took over as chief, was done to put an end to "judge shopping" in class action cases.

Callis said plaintiffs' attorneys were adding potential class representatives in cases so that they could keep filing change of judge motions until a judge the attorney liked was assigned to the case.

While the first reform focused on judge shopping, Callis said the second round focused on forum shopping.

Callis said limits were needed for out-of-state attorneys filing cases in Madison County, but who had no connection to the county.

She also told the group that she opened many cases that had been previously sealed.

Callis also said a new mandatory arbitration program, which takes effect Aug. 1, will expedite cases where disputes are less than $50,000 before proceeding to trial.

The chief judge also talked about the new medical malpractice reform that requires mandatory mediation before proceeding to trial.

That rule is currently awaiting Illinois Supreme Court approval.

Before she talked about the circuit's reforms, Callis told the audience about how an incident with an enraged litigant -- Kelly McGinnis -- affected her life.

Callis went into hiding until McGinnis, who shot and killed his ex-wife's divorce lawyer and evaded capture, was arrested.

"I thought I was going to be murdered in front of my two children," Callis said.

Callis said the incident helped make her a better judge when she was moved to criminal courts.

In addition to Callis, Madison County Judges Tom Chapman, Steve Stobbs, and Dan Stack were in attendance.

Earlier in the day, Stack gave a speech to a group of defense lawyers.

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