Lawyers who contributed to anti-Karmeier effort set stage for Justice's deposition

By The Madison County Record | Nov 12, 2014

Lawyers who failed to convince enough voters that Lloyd Karmeier sold justice to State Farm will keep trying to convince U.S. District Judge David Herndon.

Three days after voters retained Karmeier as Supreme Court Justice for 10 more years, lawyers behind a racketeering suit against State Farm notified him that they would depose him.

They set no date for the deposition.

The leader of their team, Robert Clifford of Chicago, contributed $250,000 to the committee that attacked Karmeier’s integrity through television, radio and mail.

Don Barrett of Mississippi, partner of team members Richard Barrett and Charles Barrett, contributed $50,000.

Team member Elizabeth Cabraser of California contributed $10,000.

Karmeier disputes their authority to quiz him under oath, and Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams plans a Dec. 16 hearing on the dispute.

He set deadlines of Nov. 24 for Karmeier’s brief and Dec. 5 for Clifford’s brief.

Williams manages discovery for Herndon, who must ultimately decide whether to exercise authority over Karmeier.

At a hearing on Nov. 10, Williams said the court must decide whether to allow the deposition and, if so, what restrictions to put in place.

Clifford said that if Karmeier wants to keep his deposition confidential, he should file for a protective order.

“Presidents of the United States have given depositions,” Clifford said.

He said the allegations against State Farm speak to activity before the 2004 election. Williams said, “We are not here to argue that yet.”

Clifford said, “I’m not trying to argue it now.”

Lead plaintiff Mark Hale of New York state claims State Farm fraudulently secured Karmeier’s election in 2004, in order to overturn a judgment against the insurer.

Hale’s lawyers litigated Avery v. State Farm, a consumer fraud class action they filed in Williamson County in 1997.

Lead plaintiff Michael Avery alleged that State Farm supplied inferior parts for crash repairs.

Jurors upheld the claim in 1999, associate judge John Speroni entered judgment in excess of $1 billion, and Fifth District appellate judges affirmed him.

State Farm appealed to the Supreme Court, where the case remained under review when voters elected Karmeier.

Class counsel moved to disqualify him, and State Farm opposed the motion.

State Farm produced records showing no corporate contributions to the campaign and minimal amounts from individuals.

Karmeier stayed on the case and joined a majority that reversed the judgment.

Class counsel petitioned the Supreme Court for review in 2011, claiming State Farm provided more support for Karmeier campaign than it disclosed in 2005.

The Supreme Court denied their petition.

They filed the racketeering suit in federal court in 2012, alleging that State Farm misled the Supreme Court in 2005 and 2011.

They named State Farm employee William Shepherd and Ed Murnane of the Illinois Civil Justice League as conspirators with State Farm.

They seek to recover the judgment with interest and triple damages, about $8 billion in all.

Last month they alleged that State Farm corrupted the judicial evaluation committee of the Illinois State Bar Association in 2004.

They issued subpoenas to four committee members, and the bar association retained Michael Nester of Belleville to quash the subpoenas.

At the Nov. 10 hearing, plaintiff lawyer Steven Blonder of Chicago asked Williams to set a schedule for briefs on the subpoenas.

Nester said he would file a brief.

State Farm counsel Joseph Cancila said he would file one too. He said two of the four subjects currently serve as in house counsel for State Farm.

Cancila told Williams that Nester represents two of the four.

Williams asked Nester if he represented all four.

Nester said, “That’s something that perhaps needs to be parsed out at some point in time.”

He said the four have identity of issues on some things but not others.

Williams set a Jan. 8 hearing for the bar association.

More News

The Record Network