County Board member asks for Crowder's resignation

Christina Stueve Dec. 22, 2011, 12:34am

Madison County Board member Mike Walters asked for Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder's resignation in an address to the full board on Wednesday night.

Walters, a Republican, also read from a letter addressed to Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis.

"This action by Judge Crowder has brought increased negative attention to the judicial system of Madison County, and we join our constituents in being rightly outraged over Judge Crowder's actions," he said.

Crowder was removed from the asbestos docket on Dec. 12 after having accepted $30,000 in donations from asbestos lawyers days after she made a favorable ruling for them.

She announced she would return the money on Dec. 14.

Crowder said on Wednesday that she had done nothing to violate the code of judicial conduct.

"My campaign committee never did anything that violated it or the law," she said. "The judicial inquiry board process can run its course, and I expect to be vindicated."

Earlier Wednesday, County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, a Democrat, called for a judicial inquiry into the contributions made to Crowder's campaign committee.

Walters, who also is executive director of Southwestern Illinois Employers Association, wrote in his letter to Callis, "We are respectfully asking that you, as Chief Judge, take the next step and call for Judge Crowder to resign her position immediately.

"We believe this will send a strong message that we in Madison County firmly believe in the highest ethical principles, and we will do what it takes to make sure they are adhered to."

Walters reminded his audience that Madison County is on the American Tort Reform Association's "Judicial Hellhole" list due to its asbestos docket.

"This is not a list we want to be on," he said. "This could cause future businesses not to move here, and even worse, it could cause loss of present jobs here in Madison County."

In the past, Madison County was on the list for numerous multi-million and one multi-billion dollar verdict - (the $10.1 billion verdict Price v. Philip Morris) - that was overturned by a higher court, he said.

(The Price case has been revived and has returned to Madison County).

"I also understand that this might be the only (asbestos) docket like this in the country, where trial slots are given out 24 months in advance and assigned to law firms, not plaintiffs or cases," he said.

"Our court system exists for the people of Madison County. It doesn't exist for employment of judges; it doesn't exist for the employment of plaintiff's attorneys, defense attorneys or any other kinds of attorneys. It is there to adjudicate disputes between citizens of this county."

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