Crowder receives $30K in campaign contributions last week

Ann Maher Dec. 13, 2011, 4:14am

Lawyers from the three largest Madison County asbestos firms contributed $30,000 to asbestos Judge Barbara Crowder's campaign committee last week.

Crowder, who was first elected circuit judge in 2006, is up for retention in the 2012 general election. The contributions were disclosed on the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Ten attorneys from the Simmons firm of Alton contributed $1,000 each on Dec. 6: Randy Cohn, Shane Hampton, Christopher Guinn, Brian Cooke, Myles Epperson, G. Michael Stewart, firm CEO Gregg Kirkland, Amy Garrett, John Barnerd Jr. and Perry Browder.

Mark Goldenberg and Elizabeth Heller of the Goldenberg firm of Edwardsville each contributed $5,000 on Dec. 5.

Randy Gori and Barry Julian of Gori & Julian in Edwardsville each contributed $5,000, also on Dec. 5.

There are no other contributions listed on the committee report.

Crowder has presided exclusively over the asbestos docket since last year, having succeeded Judge Daniel Stack a few months before his retirement in 2010.

On Dec. 1, Crowder signed a preliminary order setting asbestos trial slots for 2013.

The calendar setting for 2012 was determined earlier this year, in March.

The Simmons firm, Goldenberg firm and Gori & Julian combined received 82 percent of all the asbestos trial slots for 2013.

The Simmons firm was provided with 185 trial slots in nine weeks with 19 exclusive slots each week, plus 14 slots on a tenth day. For 2012, Simmons was assigned nine weeks.

Crowder provided 128 slots to Gori & Julian in seven trial weeks and she provided 84 slots in five weeks to the Goldenberg firm. For 2012, Gori & Julian was assigned six weeks and the Goldenberg firm was assigned five.

In the preliminary order of Dec. 1, Crowder granted all three firms the number of weeks they requested.

Madison County hosts the busiest asbestos docket of any state court in the nation. Of the hundreds of cases filed here each year, most of the claims are from out of state residents, and most of the claims are filed on behalf of plaintiffs suffering from the most serious asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

Plaintiff attorneys argue that Madison County's open asbestos court is fair and efficient.

Defense attorneys argue that Madison County's advance calendar setting encourages plaintiff lawyers to go out and market the asbestos docket.

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