Dunstan calls for judicial review of contributions made to Crowder's campaign

Christina Stueve Dec. 21, 2011, 7:56am

Madison County Chairman Alan J. Dunstan is requesting the State of Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board conduct a review to determine if recent contributions made to Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder's campaign committee violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct.

"Importantly, the acceptance of certain campaign contributions creates a perception of conflict and negatively impacts the image of Madison County, the courts and Judge Crowder," Dunstan said in a press release.

Last week the Record reported that Crowder had accepted $30,000 in contributions from local asbestos firms just days after she entered a ruling favorable toward them.

Crowder has denied any connection between the contributions she received from lawyers at the Simmons firm, Goldenberg firm and Gori & Julian on Dec. 5 and 6, and an order she signed on Dec. 1 allotting those firms 82 percent of all asbestos trial slots in 2013.

Crowder said in a phone interview Wednesday that she has done nothing to violate the code of judicial conduct.

"My campaign committee never did anything that violated it or the law," she said. "I directed my treasurer to return donations to avoid issues when it was brought to my attention. The judicial inquiry board process can run its course, and I expect to be vindicated."

Chief Judge Ann Callis removed Crowder as asbestos judge on Dec. 12 and reassigned her to miscellaneous remedies, chancery and eminent domain cases.

"As Madison County Board Chairman, I appreciate the quick action of Chief Judge Ann Callis and the other judges in the 3rd Judicial Circuit to remove Judge Crowder from her former docket," Dunstan stated in the release.

"However, despite that action, I believe the judicial review I have requested is warranted.

"Judge Callis has instituted a number of judicial reforms that have had a significant, positive impact on the county's court system and I do not want those actions negatively impacted by a campaign contribution issue."

Dunstan stressed that a review by the Judicial Inquiry Board removes any implications of politics.

"During my tenure as chairman, Democrats and Republicans have worked together in order to better serve the people of Madison County. But this issue is not about politics, it is about the people of Madison County knowing their judges and elected officials are ethical and totally above board in all their actions."

Last week, the Belleville News-Democrat quoted Simmons partner Mike Angelides as saying that Crowder's husband, and until recently her campaign manager, Lawrence Taliana, had solicited campaign contributions from the Simmons firm and other firms.

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