Not Recommended

The Madison County Record Aug. 19, 2007, 1:00am

When we first reported earlier this summer that Belleville's Judy Cates, plaintiff's lawyer extraordinaire and former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers' Association, had her eye on a run for judge, we didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

It's funny that this woman, a bona fide lawyer-bully whose career represents everything that is wrong with our civil justice system, would think herself qualified to preside fairly and objectively over cases in our courts of law.

And it's sad to think that, in heavily Democratic Southern Illinois and bolstered by her deep-pocketed trial lawyer allies, Judy Cates could well win.

Well, if she did, Cates wouldn't be the first, nor the worst warrior-lawyer with an ax to grind around these parts to slip on a black robe.

That honor is reserved in perpetuity for mega-asbestos lawyer-turned-Third Circuit Judge Randy Bono. He served a stint on the bench in the mid-1990's, long enough to award Stephen Tillery $16 million in fees for his creativity in conjuring up a class action against Ameritech (the plaintiffs got $5 phone cards!) before exiting to team with John Simmons and make Madison County really, really famous.

Back in private practice, Bono founded The Simmons Law Firm (now SimmonsCooper) and ensured its success, convincing Judge Nick Byron to open up his courtroom to a flood of dubious asbestos cases from plaintiffs the world over.

We all know how that's worked out.

Cates says she's running for a more elite and influential post than Bono in 2008-- a spot on the Fifth District Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon. She wants to take out fellow Democrat Judge James Wexxsten, who apparently isn't pro-plaintiff enough for her liking.

A class action ace who once sued Publisher's Clearing House claiming false advertising and demanded $3 million of a proposed $10 million settlement in fees, Cates is nothing if she isn't pro-lawyer.

Combative, highly-litigious (she sued her own school board over a proposed students' dress code) and disturbingly comfortable using her court-granted powers to browbeat and harass non-lawyers (ask Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan), Cates boasts precisely those qualities a member of our judiciary shouldn't have.

She's a talent trolling for plaintiffs and crusading against tort reform, but Judy Cates would be a disaster of a judge.

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