Kilbride retention election the most expensive of the decade

Jessica Karmasek Oct. 21, 2010, 2:44am


An Illinois Supreme Court race has become the nation's most expensive one-candidate retention election this decade, according to a public policy and law institute and a campaign group aimed at keeping courts fair.

With less than two weeks to Election Day, Illinois Justice Thomas L. Kilbride reported late Monday that he has raised nearly $2.1 million toward his reelection.

The Illinois Civil Justice League, which is urging voters to oust Kilbride, has raised $561,000 from July 1 through Monday.

The money explosion has been fueled by national business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, seeking to unseat the incumbent and state-based plaintiffs' lawyers hoping to retain him.

Legal Newsline is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign, in a joint news release on Tuesday, called the total -- more than $2.6 million -- "extraordinary" for a retention election, where only incumbents appear on the ballot and voters decide whether to grant another term.

Only one retention election, the 1986 race in which California Chief Justice Rose Bird was ousted, has cost more, the Brennan Center reported.

Kilbride must get at least 60 percent voter approval in the state's 3rd Judicial District -- a sometimes Republican-leaning district -- to be retained to a second 10-year term.

The Rock Island Democrat was one of four justices who voted in February to overturn the state's medical malpractice law and is the only one among those jurists facing voters who may hold him to account for that decision.

After the 4-2 court decision, which knocked down a 2005 state law that capped non-economic "pain and suffering" damages against hospitals and doctors, trial lawyers cheered. But the decision also made Kilbride a prime election target for the medical and business communities.

Read the complete story at Legal Newsline.

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