Michael O'Malley and the Metro East merry-go-round

The Madison County Record Oct. 23, 2010, 3:38pm

Good Morning America co-anchor George Stephanopoulous, who also is ABC News's chief political analyst, once was the White House communications director in the Clinton administration.

The jump that Stephanopoluous made from professional politician to professional journalist raised many an eyebrow.

Questions were asked, such as would he be impartial in his new role or show favoritism to his former Democratic cronies? Had his new media colleagues given him the kid-glove treatment when he represented the President? Would he return to the political arena some day and be mindful of that prospect while performing his journalistic duties?

There's payback and there's pay-forward, and the revolving door facilitates both. In Washington, the revolving door never stops spinning. Lobbyists become legislators and regulators; legislators and regulators become lobbyists. Journalists become press spokesmen, and vice versa.

It's unseemly and in some cases possibly illegal, but hardly anyone ever is called on it. We can only wonder what inside deals are being made and how our best interests may be sacrificed to them.

The problem is not confined to the nation's capital. It's being played out here in Madison and St. Clair Counties, too.

Plaintiff's attorney Randy Bono made millions in asbestos-related cases before entering the revolving door and serving five years as a Madison County trial judge. Then he took another spin, returning to private practice and lucrative legal settlements.

Michael O'Malley is the latest local lawyer to take a ride on the Metro East merry-go-round. Five years ago, as a St. Clair County Circuit judge, O'Malley certified a case against drug company GlaxoSmithKline. Now in private practice, he has targeted the same company for product liability suits.

Maybe O'Malley ruled impartially when the drug company appeared before him in court.

Maybe his status and relationships as a former judge will not influence his current suit.

To citizens looking on, the appearance of impropriety often seems like an impropriety and that can work to undermine respect for the judicial system, resulting in long-term negative consequences.

O'Malley should think about that before walking into the courtroom.

More News