The Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) organization will be at courthouses in Edwardsville and Belleville today to promote "Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week."
Travis Akin, director of I-LAW, said the group will be encouraging voters to become informed about candidates running for judge in next month's election. The theme of this year's event is "Good Judges Matter," he said.
“Too many judges have allowed the personal injury lawyers to turn our courts into their own personally profitable playground,” Akin stated in a press release. “Good judges matter, and during ‘Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week’, we are calling on voters to ask judicial candidates if they will stand up to the personal injury lawyers and restore fairness to our courts.”
Akin said the local economy suffers from the region's "costly reputation for unfair courts and jackpot justice."
He said that Madison and St. Clair counties "have problems."
"If someone has a legitimate injury they should be made whole," he said. "What I am talking about is excess and greed. Plaintiffs sometimes file cases when there is no actual harm done."
He said that the local lawsuit climate is tough on businesses.
"Business owners don't like regulation and taxes, but they can adjust to them," he said. "But a lawsuit can be devastating in time spent fighting something they shouldn't be fighting."
He said that can cost job opportunities, as well as lead to stagnation and business growth taking place elsewhere - such as across the river in Missouri.
Judges can play a "big role in restoring fairness to our courts, which will in turn create jobs here," he said.
Akin cited reports that give poor ratings for the Illinois court system.
"Illinois’ civil justice system was ranked fifth worst in the country in a report from the Harris Interactive research company, while the American Economic Development Institute issued a report last month that gave Illinois an 'F' grade for our state’s litigation climate," he stated.
At the St. Clair County Courthouse on Monday, Akin said his group isn't endorsing any particular candidates, rather it is setting out to get voters to pay more careful attention to "down ballot" judicial races.
"There's a lot of attention paid to high profile races, such as for governor and Congress," he said. "We encourage voters to get educated about the important judicial elections before they go to the voting booth."
Illinois Trial lawyers Association president John Cooney reacted strongly to Akin's assertions drawing conclusions about the judicial system and economy.
"I-LAW promotes the myth that our civil justice system is hindering the state’s economy, but the truth is that lawsuits ranked 71st on a list of the 75 chief concerns of small businesses, according to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business," Cooney stated. "Taxes, energy prices, and the cost of labor are far more important factors for a company deciding where to locate."