Trial lawyers trying to buy our courts lose big

By The Madison County Record | Nov 7, 2014

A kingmaker, he's not. Nor even a judge-maker/unmaker.

St. Louis attorney Stephen Tillery went all in with his bid to prevent State Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier from serving a second 10-year term and got exactly squat for his efforts.

Tillery and other trial lawyers plying their trade in Madison and St. Clair County courts contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a campaign fund established to block Karmeier’s bid for retention.

It wasn't because they're civic-minded citizens that they dropped a bundle trying to oust one judge. No, their motivation was money. They had dollar signs in their eyes, and lots of them.

Nearly ten years ago, when he was a relatively new state supreme court justice, Karmeier participated in decisions overturning class action judgments against State Farm and Philip Morris of roughly $1 billion and $10 billion, respectively. Tillery and other plaintiffs attorneys who saw these jumbo jackpots suddenly vanish have been trying ever since to get the original judgments reinstated.

This year, as Karmeier's first term drew to a close and the question of his retention came before the voters, Tillery, et al. saw their chance.

Their legal maneuverings had gotten them nowhere, so they sought to replace their nemesis with someone more to their liking: first, by preventing Karmeier's retention and then, by backing a candidate of their own to replace him.

They nearly succeeded -- in the first step. Needing 60 percent approval to keep his judgeship, Karmeier barely met the threshold, garnering 60.68 percent approval.

Nevertheless, when you consider the savage campaign of insinuation that the jilted jackpot junkies waged against him in a $2 million, late-season series of attack ads on television, Karmeier's narrow margin of victory is a major triumph for those who want good government.

Out millions, Tillery and company are no closer to the billions they lust after – and Karmeier doesn't stand for retention until 2024.

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