Lawyers who accuse State Farm of leading a racket to corrupt the Illinois Supreme Court improperly exposed electronic mail of defendant Ed Murnane, president of Illinois Civil Justice League.
Instead of blacking out five lines in an Aug. 25 brief, lawyers for Mark Hale and Todd Shadle smudged the text so thinly that anyone could read it.
U.S. district court personnel struck the brief and filed a new one with a thicker smudge, but they left the original on the public docket.
Hale and Shadle allege that State Farm secretly financed the campaign of current Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004, and that Murnane secretly managed the campaign.
A day after the exposure of Murnane’s message, Karmeier and his wife learned that a telephone company had improperly given plaintiffs their personal records.
State Farm lawyers told them about the breach of confidentiality after finding their records among those of other third parties subject to subpoena.
For Karmeier, Courtney Cox of St. Louis reported the breach to Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams at a conference on Aug. 27.
Cox said plaintiffs may have had the records for a month.
Plaintiffs pleaded to Williams that no one knew the phone company had produced too much.
By this account, State Farm received the full production package after plaintiffs received it, yet State Farm found the Karmeier records before plaintiffs did.
For Hale and Shadle, Stephen Blonder of Chicago shrugged it off as harmless error.
He told Williams he instructed the phone company not to produce the Karmeier records.
“When we got them we assumed we didn’t have what we didn’t want,” Blonder said.
“We are not going through those documents. We have not disseminated it. We are not reviewing it.”
By law, phone companies must produce records of phone owners to any attorney who signs a subpoena for a civil suit in federal court.
They don’t have to tell owners (customers) when they provide records, so no citizen can know how many eyes scan his or her calls for purposes of someone else’s lawsuit.
Hale and Shadle claim Karmeier’s fraudulent election resulted in reversal of a billion dollar judgment that a class of State Farm policy holders won in 1999, in Williamson County.
They seek triple damages and interest, for a total around $7 billion.
Chief District Judge David Herndon presides over the case, and Williams supervises discovery.
Williams plans a conference on Sept. 15.