Five worst local jurisdictions for legal fairness are in Illinois

Travis Akin Mar. 28, 2010, 8:00am


Harris Interactive, Inc. recently released its annual rankings of each state based on legal fairness and once again Illinois is home to some of the worst local court jurisdictions in the country.

According to the study, respondents were asked to list the five worst cities or counties with the "least fair and reasonable litigation environments." Cook County was the #1 answer from the survey respondents while Madison County came in the fifth-worst local jurisdiction in the nation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commissioned the study, which asked 1,482 corporate lawyers and executives their impressions of the legal environment in all 50 states. The survey focused on such issues as venue requirements, discovery, damage awards, jury fairness and judges' competence.

Overall, Illinois' legal climate is ranked 45th in the country, far behind every other state in the region as Indiana is ranked #4, Iowa #5, Wisconsin #22, Michigan #30, Missouri #37 and Kentucky #40, nationally. Only California, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia ranked worse than Illinois.

Illinois again stands out as the "Lawsuit Capital of the Midwest."

Of course, Illinois' standing in this report could have actually been worse because the research for the report was completed before the Illinois Supreme Court's decision to strike down the state's medical malpractice reform law. Had that decision been factored in the survey, Illinois could have been ranked even lower.

Illinois' dubious distinction as the sixth-worst state for legal fairness and the home to some of the worst local court jurisdictions in the country is taking its toll on our economy.

The more lawsuits we attract, the more jobs we shed. According to the report, two-thirds of the respondents believe a state's legal climate is likely to have a big impact on the decision of where to locate or expand a business.

Indeed, the unemployment rate in Illinois stands at 12.2 percent, almost three points higher than the national average. In the Metro-East, the unemployment rate is 12.6 percent and the 11.6 percent unemployment rate in Cook County is nearly two points higher than the national average.

Companies create jobs where the legal system is fair, so why would a company move to a state ranked sixth-worst in the country for legal fairness? No one would buy a car ranked 45th out of 50 for safety, so why are we content with an unfair and unbalanced legal system?

No one is suggesting that the legal climate is the only reason for Illinois' economic woes. Obviously, high taxes, political corruption and a lack of leadership from Springfield contribute to the state's lackluster economy.

But the lack of legal reform is a factor we should not continue to ignore. In these difficult economic times, the state should be giving prospective employers reasons to invest in Illinois rather than reasons for them to flee.

Personal injury lawyers do not take this report seriously, but rest assured business leaders do. It is time for our political leaders to embrace the need for legal reform. Illinois needs jobs – not more lawsuits.

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