Lawyer Trish Murphy helped shape strategy for a claim that State Farm corrupted the Illinois Supreme Court while husband Patrick Murphy served as a federal judge.
Although her name has not appeared in a suit against State Farm since other lawyers filed it two years ago, it appears on a log of documents they designated as confidential this year.
The log provides sketchy descriptions for hundreds of documents they withheld from State Farm and two individual defendants, William Shepherd and Ed Murnane.
Shepherd works for State Farm, and Murnane leads the Illinois Civil Justice League.
Plaintiffs Mark Hale and Todd Shadle claim State Farm, Shepherd, and Murnane fraudulently conspired to secure the election of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004.
They allege that Murnane secretly recruited Karmeier and secretly ran his campaign.
They seek to recover a billion dollar judgment against State Farm that the Supreme Court reversed in 2005.
With interest and triple damages, their claim approaches $8 billion.
Their log of confidential documents shows that on July 23, 2009, lawyer Robert Clifford sent two electronic messages directly to Murphy, with copies to eight others.
One message involved “strategy for acquiring specific information sought by an attorney.”
The other involved communication “amongst counsel and investigators regarding the US Chamber’s contributions to Karmeier’s campaign.”
On the same date researcher Doug Wojcieszak sent Clifford a message about “Karmeier white paper,” and copied it to a list of lawyers that began with Murphy.
Wojcieszak and Clifford also copied her first on messages between them about information sources on Karmeier’s recruitment and about a State Farm executive on the Chamber board.
The next day, Wojcieszak sent Clifford a message about “Nailing Murnane on recruiting Karmeier,” with Murphy as the third person to receive a copy.
All the messages stemmed from a U.S. Supreme Court decision that a West Virginia Supreme Court justice should have recused himself from a campaign contributor’s case.
The lawyers did not seize that moment to revive the case against State Farm, and the log of confidential documents shows little activity for almost two years.
In May 2011, Wojcieszak sent Clifford messages about renewing the investigation and about evidence that State Farm misled the Supreme Court in 2005.
In a message on May 19, Wojcieszak asked lawyer Don Daugherty, “Is there a statute of limitations applicable to a claim of fraud on the court?”
The lawyers and Wojcieszak held a conference call that day or the next. One message on the 19th referred to "today’s" conference, and one referred to "tomorrow’s" conference.
The conference call apparently concerned Murnane and Illinois Civil Justice League.
On May 21, Wojcieszak sent Clifford a message about, “Answer to Trish Murphy’s question on ICJL executive committee.”
Wojcieszak copied the message to several lawyers including Murphy.
Clifford’s team petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court on Sept. 9, 2011 to vacate the 2005 mandate in favor of State Farm, and the Court denied the petition on Nov. 17, 2011.
The team sued State Farm, Shepherd and Murnane in federal court at East St. Louis in May 29, 2012, alleging violation of racketeering law.
State Farm served a subpoena on Wojcieszak for documents in April, and Clifford’s team asserted privilege to withhold many of the documents.
State Farm challenged the assertion of privilege, arguing that the documents contain proof that a statute of limitations ran out before plaintiffs filed the racketeering suit.
Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams plans an Oct. 21 hearing on privilege.
U.S. District Judge David Herndon presides over the case.
Before he became federal judge, Patrick Murphy filed the original suit against State Farm in Williamson County in 1997, as local counsel on the plaintiff team.
President Bill Clinton nominated him as judge in 1998, and the U. S. Senate confirmed him.
He retired last December and entered private practice with Trish Murphy.
(Editor's note: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform owns the Madison-St. Clair Record).