The Lakin factor

The Madison County Record Sep. 20, 2008, 10:00am

The money must be really, really good.

How else to explain why State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), up for re-election this fall, continues to promote his affiliation with the most besmirched legal outfit in Metro-East, the Lakin Law Firm?

The Lakins are no stranger to readers of these pages. We have criticized the firm's self-serving, legal tactics that for a spell almost single-handedly turned Madison County into the class action lawsuit capital of the world.

For instance, thanks in part to the Lakins, Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act in an attempt to curb courtroom abuses. President George W. Bush came to Collinsville to sign the legislation. The visit was for effect--to spotlight the excesses of some trial lawyers and the community members who were victimized.

That was then. The Lakins' polluting impact on our national legal reputation isn't the rub this election season. Rather, it is firm namesake Tom Lakin, headed to federal prison for sordid offenses, some of which are not printable on these pages.

Hoffman's challenger, Republican businessman Dwight Kay, is making Lakin an issue on the campaign trail. He says voters should question the judgment of Hoffman, a man who is a firm associate of felons like Lakin and ex-Lakin class action lawyer Gary Peel, convicted last year of bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography.

Hoffman calls Kay's criticism "mud-slinging." He says, yes, he works at the Lakin Law Firm and, no, he isn't an owner or partner, so none of the criticism is relevant.

We believe such a feeble dodge won't prove convincing for voters.

Far from going to lengths to avoid discussing criminal predators like Tom Lakin, Rep. Hoffman should be taking the lead in public condemnation of his actions. He was elected to use his position of authority to stand up for constitutents who cannot stand up for themselves.

Hoffman hasn't stood up, and it seems as long as he feeds at the Lakin trough, Hoffman won't.

It's necessary for citizen-legislators we elect to earn a living. But it's tragic when the pursuit of that living leads them away from their sworn duties and obligations to the folks who elected them.

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