Crowder leads in fund-raising among circuit judges up for retention

Ann Maher Apr. 12, 2012, 8:58am





Madison County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Crowder is top in fund-raising among the four circuit judges seeking retention in the Third Judicial Circuit.

In spite of controversy surrounding Crowder's acceptance and eventual return of $30,000 in campaign contributions from Madison County asbestos lawyers last December, the judge raised nearly as much money in the first quarter as she did in two days in the last quarter of 2012.

According to campaign finance records at the Illinois State Board of Elections, Friends of Barbara Crowder received $29,370 as of March 31.

Most of the contributions came from a range of area plaintiff and defense attorneys.

Many were received in conjunction with a fund-raiser Crowder held March 28 at the Lewis & Clark Community College.

At least four asbestos lawyers from the Goldenberg firm in Edwardsville contributed modestly at between $200 and $250 apiece.

The Gori and Julian firm of Edwardsville, which concentrates in asbestos litigation, contributed $500.

Notably, no attorneys from the Simmons asbestos firm of Alton contributed to Crowder in the first quarter.

In December, Crowder's fund-raising prompted intense scrutiny as well as led to her removal as head of Madison County's asbestos docket after she received $30,000 in campaign contributions from lawyers at Madison County's top asbestos firms – Simmons, Goldenberg and Gori and Julian - days after ruling favorably for them.

She was reassigned on Dec. 12 to oversee eminent domain, chancery and miscellaneous remedies cases.

Crowder later returned those contributions. She also denied any connection between her ruling that granted the three firms 82 percent of all advance asbestos trial slots for 2013 and the donations.
Late last month, Associate Judge Clarence Harrison, who replaced Crowder as overseer of the asbestos docket, terminated the court's 2013 advance setting of asbestos trial weeks.

Other recent, large contributions to Crowder came from Edwardsville attorneys Gordon Broom, $1,500; Larry Hepler, $1,000; John Hopkins of Alton, $1,000; Mary Ann Hatch of Belleville, $1,000; Reilly Law of Edwardsville, $1,000 and retired state Sen. Evelyn Bowles, $1,000.

Other circuit judges seeking retention in November are Chief Judge Ann Callis and Judges Dave Hylla and John Knight.

To be retained, a judge must receive 60 percent of the electorate's "Yes" vote.

Callis established a campaign committee, Citizens for Callis, in February showing $10,000 in available funds. Retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rarick is her campaign chairman.

Hylla created Citizens for Dave Hylla on April 4, funding it with a $7,500 personal loan.

Knight has not yet established a fund-raising committee.

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