A plaintiff's attorney who seeks to disqualify an Illinois Supreme Court Justice from hearing his case - claiming that campaign contributions have unfairly biased the decision making process - has himself consistently contributed to circuit, appellate and supreme court candidates over the years.
In fact, Stephen Tillery, in 2004, gave $91,500 to a political action committee - Justice for All - which supported Democratic nominee Gordon Maag who ran against and lost to Republican Lloyd Karmeier.
Tillery, who stands to gain $1.7 billion in fees in Price v. Philip Morris, asserts that Karmeier should be disqualified from hearing the case that is likely to be accepted by the high court because his campaign committee in 2004 accepted contributions from organizations which Philip Morris belonged to, namely the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Tort Reform Association.
The Price verdict came after a bench trial in Madison County Circuit Court Nicholas Byron's court in 2003.
In 2002, Tillery donated $500 to Byron's campaign committee.
Other Madison County judicial candidates who received contributions from Tillery:
- Ann Callis, $5,000 (resigned)
- Barbara Crowder, $2,500
- Richard Tognarelli, $750
- Ed Ferguson, $500 (retired)
- Phillip Kardis, $500 (retired)
St. Clair County judicial candidates who received contributions from Tillery:
- Robert LeChien, $2,500
- Bob Haida, $1,050
- Milton Wharton (retired) and Jan Fiss, $500
- Andrew Gleeson, $300
Appellate court candidates who received contributions from Tillery:
- Judy Cates, $5,000
- Melissa Chapman, $500
- James Donovan (retired), $300
Supreme Court candidates who received contributions from Tillery:
- Sue Myerscough, $1,000
In addition, Tillery has contributed more than $60,000 to various local and statewide Democratic organizations and $57,000 to the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. He also has contributed to county and state legislative candidates.
In Price v. Philip Morris, Byron held that by labeling cigarettes as light and low tar, Philip Morris deceived smokers into expecting health benefits.
A Supreme Court majority including Karmeier reversed Byron in 2005, finding the Federal Trade Commission authorized light and low tar labels.
This April, Fifth District appellate judges in Mount Vernon reinstated the judgment.
They found that plaintiffs produced new evidence in the form of a Federal Trade Commission opinion that would have changed the Supreme Court’s decision.
On May 12, Philip Morris petitioned the Supreme Court for leave to appeal or for a supervisory order against the Fifth District.
(Editor's note: The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform owns the Madison-St. Clair Record).