Lawyers who mistakenly received telephone records of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier and wife Mary Karmeier now seek permission to read them.

On Nov. 14, they pleaded that they need the records for a federal suit alleging that insurer State Farm ran a racket to elect Karmeier in 2004.

“Justice Karmeier is a critical witness, his campaign communications are critical information, and plaintiffs therefore want to review those phone records,” they wrote.

They cited precedents for a position that Karmeier has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turned over to his phone company.

They wrote that he offered no evidence that a subpoena on the company would harass anyone, discourage membership, or chill rights of association.

Robert Clifford of Chicago and Gordon Ball of Knoxville, Tenn., signed the brief, and 11 others put their names on it.

They received Karmeier’s phone records before Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams decided whether they could, through an error they attribute to the phone company.

State Farm lawyers spotted the error and told Karmeier and Clifford about it.

For Karmeier, Courtney Cox of St. Louis reported it to Williams at a hearing in October.

Clifford and associate Steven Blonder of Chicago told Williams the records were sequestered, and no one reviewed them.

Cox brought up the error again on Nov. 10, asking Williams why plaintiffs hadn’t advised him and Karmeier about it at the previous hearing.

Williams said he heard nothing to indicate bad faith, and nothing was concealed.

Cox said he knew about the error but didn’t tell them he knew.

“I was waiting for them to do the right thing,” he said.

Williams said, “We’re past that.”

Blonder said, “We haven’t looked at them. We don’t know what’s there.”

Williams set a hearing Dec. 4, and both sides filed briefs on Nov. 14.

Cox wrote that the records contain a history of calls to and from Karmeier and his wife that have nothing to do with the case and would constitute an invasion of his privacy.

He asked Williams to require plaintiffs to identify the numbers they are searching for and to whom those numbers belonged, so the court can determine if the numbers are relevant.

He wrote that Karmeier’s counsel would search for the specified numbers, or the court would appoint a special master to do it at plaintiffs’ expense.

“If such numbers appear, the court would then determine whether that information would be released to plaintiffs’ counsel,” he wrote.

Lead plaintiff Mark Hale, of New York State, claims State Farm fraudulently secured Karmeier’s election in order to overturn a $1 billion judgment against the insurer.

Williams must decide not only whether plaintiffs can see Karmeier’s phone records, but also whether they can depose him.

Williams manages discovery for District Judge David Herndon, who presides over the case.

Last month, Clifford contributed $250,000 to a campaign against Karmeier’s retention.

On election day, Karmeier prevailed.


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