Five top tort lawyers must deliver 34 documents to State Farm about their role in the Illinois Supreme Court election of 2004, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams ruled on Dec. 5.
He declared the documents essential to State Farm’s defense in a class action alleging that it corrupted the Supreme Court through secret support of candidate Lloyd Karmeier.
Williams overruled assertions of privilege that Stephen Tillery, Randall Bono, John Simmons, Jeff Cooper and Brad Lakin had pleaded for the documents.
They don’t represent the plaintiffs suing State Farm, but they injected themselves into the case when State Farm served a subpoena for records of researcher Doug Wojcieszak.
He has worked for the legal team suing State Farm and separately for Tillery in a class action against Philip Morris now under review at the Supreme Court.
In June, Tillery notified State Farm that he and others would withhold 413 documents subject to the subpoena on Wojcieszak.
Bono, Simmons, Cooper and Lakin joined the assertion of privilege, associating themselves with the Philip Morris case for the first time.
They invoked First Amendment free association for some documents, and classified others as confidential work products.
State Farm moved to overrule their assertions, and Williams undertook to read all 413 documents in his chambers.
He emerged to grant First Amendment protection to Tillery, in general.
“The candidates and issues he supports are controversial because he participates in judicial elections and, as an attorney, he may appear in front of those judges in the future,” Williams wrote.
“He also associates with clients and referring counsel and thus he has shown a legitimate fear that if his support or opposition to candidates is known it could negatively affect his relationship with clients and other counsel who hold the opposite view of that candidate.”
Williams further wrote that Cooper, Simmons, Bono and Lakin submitted identical affidavits to Tillery’s
He called them a “core group of people who were involved in election strategy.”
He wrote that the documents would reveal not only who they provided money to, but also discussions behind the scenes.
“The court finds that a highly contested Supreme Court judicial race is a controversial political issue and disclosure would deter the Tillery group’s participation for this very reason,” Williams wrote.
When Williams found documents essential to State Farm’s defense, he pulled away the First Amendment blanket.
“These documents relate to factual assertions which could be contrasted with the factual positions taken by plaintiffs as well as those assertions in affidavits submitted by plaintiffs from Wojcieszak,” he wrote.
He ordered production by Dec. 19.