Cook County is the new Madison County

Travis Akin Nov. 15, 2009, 6:38am


Residents of Madison County know all too well what can happen when a local court jurisdiction becomes an attractive destination for personal injury lawyers trying to hit the lawsuit lottery. For years, Madison County had a well-deserved reputation as the nation's worst "judicial hellhole."

Thankfully, Madison County residents took a stand and demanded reform. Now, thanks to the grassroots efforts of local citizens and the leadership of individuals such as chief judge Ann Callis, Madison County is no longer the nation's worst court jurisdiction. In fact, Madison County is not even on the "Judicial Hellholes" list.

While there certainly has been great progress made in Madison County, the opposite can be said of Cook County.

Cook County is rapidly becoming one of the worst court jurisdictions in the country for legal fairness. The respected Harris polling company ranks Cook County the second worst local court jurisdiction in the country.

Despite Cook County's growing reputation as a plaintiff's paradise, little is being done to reverse these trends.

In an attempt to highlight some of the problems in Cook County, Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) conducted a comprehensive examination of the amount of money Cook County government spends on litigation expenses, including settlements and verdicts, and found these staggering results:

In 2008, Cook County paid a whopping $69 million in litigation-related expenses.

For the sake of comparison, Cook County's litigation costs were higher than those of Los Angeles County, even though L.A. County has more than twice the population of Cook County.

In 1994, Cook County held 44% of the state's population and 46% of the state's litigation. In 2007, Cook County's share of the state population held relatively steady at 41% but the county's share of litigation in the state had skyrocketed to 65%.

At a time when local governments can barely make payrolls and other financial obligations, it makes no sense to continue to allow lawsuits to suck up tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year.

Had the Cook County government's $69 million expenditure on litigation costs in 2008 been available for other, more worthwhile projects, the County could have been able to:

Hire 1,540 new sheriff's deputies;

Hire 945 new nurses for Cook County hospitals and health care facilities;

Purchase 3,286 Chevrolet Impala full-size police pursuit sedans; or

Resurface about 200 miles of county roads in Cook County;

Hopefully, this report serves as a wake-up call to the residents of Cook County to follow the example of Madison County residents who stood up and put pressure on county leaders to implement some much-needed lawsuit reforms.

Cook County is an integral part of the Illinois economy. Cook County's growing reputation as a plaintiff's paradise does have statewide implications.

Illinois residents can ill afford for Cook County to continue to moonlight as the new Madison County.

To join I-LAW's efforts to bring common sense back to our courts, go to and find out how.

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