Judicial ethics discussed Friday at GOP meeting in O'Fallon

Christina Stueve Mar. 16, 2012, 12:24pm



Occasionally, a judge has bad judgment, according to State Rep. Dwight Kay, (R-Glen Carbon.)

Kay told members gathered Friday at a Pachyderm Club meeting in O'Fallon that Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara's Crowder's recent action in accepting campaign donations from law firms was an example of bad judgment, even though what she did wasn't illegal.

"Barbara Crowder didn't do anything wrong, but the perception is that she did," Kay said.

Crowder created a national stir when she awarded 82 percent of the 2013 asbestos docket trial slots to three law firms who donated $30,000 to her campaign. She later returned the money.

Kay is sponsoring a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives, requiring lawyers to disclose to the judge or any party in a lawsuit of any campaign contributions made to that judge by a lawyer or law firm.

"We need to make rules tougher and more fair," Kay said. "When the plaintiff's lawyers make money, the defense lawyers make money. The trial bar gives a lot of money to legislators.

"Very few people know what judges stand for or what they do. What they do know is how much money they spend."

Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW, State Representative Paul Evans (R-O'Fallon) and Madison County Board Member Mike Walters were also at the meeting.

Akin reminded members that Madison and St. Clair counties were high on the judicial hellhole list for two years. Akin credits Madison County's asbestos docket for the notoriety on the hellhole list.

"This is a problem in Madison County," Akin said. "More than 90 percent of asbestos cases in Madison County have nothing to do with Madison County."

Walters said the average national asbestos settlement is $1 million, but asbestos settlements in Madison County are $3 million.

"Crowder handed out $485 million in December," he said. "Madison County has 10,000 other cases they could be hearing, but they can't because of the asbestos docket."

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