The Madison County Courthouse is infested

The Madison County Record Oct. 2, 2010, 6:00am

As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door."

Illinois native William Hooker did just that. In 1894 he patented the spring-loaded bar mousetrap that, with minor modifications, is still the most widely used model today.

Perhaps some of the local bar got their inspiration from Hooker. They want to build their concept of a better mousetrap right here in Madison County. And in doing so, they want people from across the land to come and try it out.

Only, it's not frantic housewives looking to snare disgusting little rodents, but wily trial attorneys setting traps for deep-pocketed defendants. And the traps are not spring-loaded bars mounted to thin pieces of wood, but legal maneuveurs executed in our own county courthouse in Edwardsville.

Not surprisingly, the intended prey are reluctant to step into that courthouse, and who can blame them for smelling a trap? And every now and then, a trapped victim breaks free and we have to cheer.

Last week Fifth District Appeals Judge James Wexstten directed Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack to grant a motion from CSX Transportation and 34 other defendants for a more convenient forum in a mesothelioma suit. In other words he said the lawsuit did not belong here.

Judge Wexstten declared that "residents of Illinois should not be burdened with jury duty given the fact that the action did not arise in, and has no relation to their state." Noting that the alleged victim had been exposed to asbestos in Saginaw, Mich. and had never lived in Illinois, the judge sensibly concluded that "a trial in Michigan would better serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice."

Judge Wexstten also took note of the fact that Madison County has 15,709 civil cases pending on its docket, compared to Saginaw County's 780. That's quite a discrepancy, given the relative populations (265,000 people in Madison vs. 210,000 in Saginaw).

Madison County residents pay plenty of tax dollars to support this "mousetrap." Who are the real pests and who are the real victims, we wonder.

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