Personal injury law firms pouring money into 5th District Appellate race

Travis Akin Jun. 28, 2012, 1:30am


There is an old saying, "Birds of a feather flock together." This is especially true in the race for the Appellate Court in the 5th District, which includes the Metro-East.

Former head of the Illinois Trial Lawyer Association Judy Cates is running for an open seat on 5th District Appellate Court, and her recently released campaign finance report shows she is raking in huge sums of cash from fellow personal injury lawyers all over the country. She has most of her money from trial lawyers from Chicago, but she also received a whopping $10,000 contribution from a personal injury lawyer firm from California.

Why would a California law firm care about who serves on the 5th District Appellate Court in Illinois?

The answer is simple. While personal injury lawyers want to pretend plaintiff-friendly "Judicial Hellhole" jurisdictions are a figment of the imagination, their interest in judicial races such as the 5th District Appellate Court race indicates they want to maintain the plaintiff-friendly status quo in these jurisdictions.

Madison and St. Clair Counties are collectively ranked the fifth-worst "Judicial Hellholes" in the country. One reason for the ranking is the fact that these counties continue to attract lawsuits from all across the country. Personal injury firms in Chicago and California have a vested interest in what happens in our Metro-East counties because they flock to these counties to file their junk lawsuits.

Having a fellow personal injury lawyer sitting on the 5th District Appellate Court would certainly seem to help ensure that many of the plaintiff-friendly decisions made at the trial court level in Madison and St. Clair Counties would stand.

Having a reputation as a "personal injury lawyer's paradise" and being ranked as one of the nation's worst "Judicial Hellholes" is not just embarrassing, it's also killing job growth efforts in the Metro-East. Thus, the stakes in this otherwise obscure judicial race are huge.

Tens of thousands of dollars from personal injury law firms are already pouring into Judy Cates' campaign war chest, and more money is soon to follow as Election Day gets closer. These personal injury lawyer firms have every right to make these contributions, but voters also have every right to look at the campaign disclosure information and see who is funding the various judicial campaigns and then render a verdict on Election Day.

Judges wield extraordinary and largely unchallenged power. Good judges strive to wield this power wisely, which is why we as citizens need to pay attention to the individuals seeking a judicial position.

Voters should ask the candidates in the 5th District Appellate race if they're satisfied with the status quo and being ranked one of the worst "Judicial Hellholes" in the country or if they will work to bring common sense lawsuit reforms and badly needed fairness to Metro-East courts.

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