The Madison County Record Nov. 10, 2012, 1:16pm

They poured money into her campaign and now, presumably, will want to get what they paid for.

Lawyers and law firms inside and outside her district – many from Chicago, at least one from California – kicked tens of thousands of dollars into Judy Cates’ campaign kitty, and you can bet they weren’t motivated by altruism.

It’s payback time.

Cates, the Swansea attorney who once headed the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, has won the race for the Fifth District Appellate Court and will replace retiring Justice James Donovan.

That gives her generous contributors a chance to recoup their political investments, hoping to turn tens of thousands of dollars in donations into millions of dollars in settlements. Not a bad return, one could speculate.

The quid pro quo is never made explicit, of course. That would be wrong. But when one asbestos attorney makes a donation to the judicial campaign of another asbestos attorney, you don’t have to be a cynic to recognize that the transaction establishes some sort of bond between the two parties.

It will be interesting to see what cases come before Judge Judy, and whether she recuses herself from ones involving her benefactors or insists that she can decide the matters objectively, in spite of the obvious appearance of a conflict of interest.

It’s a fair question whether Cates can objectively hear many cases at all, regardless of personal or financial ties to the plaintiffs. Her reputation as a class-action commando targeting successful businesses with crafty complaints inspires skepticism.

One wonders where Judge Judy may wind up if she chooses to leave the bench at some later date. Will she wind up working as a trial attorney again, perhaps as a partner with one of the firms that benefited from one of her decisions? Will concern for her future fate influence her judgment?

We’ll soon know if our concerns are justified. Odds are that St. Clair County’s status as a judicial hellhole will continue. Judge Judy’s contribution to that reputation will soon be seen and judged by all.

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Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
401 W Edwards St
Springfield, IL 62704

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