Lawyers claiming State Farm corrupted the State Bar Association for the benefit of Supreme Court candidate Lloyd Karmeier apparently have disturbed the Bar.
On Dec. 18, the Bar responded to a brief in federal court accusing its judicial evaluation committee of bias toward Karmeier in 2004.
“Plaintiffs had not previously accused ISBA of wrongdoing,” Michael Nester of Belleville wrote.
He seeks to block plaintiffs in a racketeering suit against State Farm from deposing former committee members Stanley Tucker and April Troemper, now a judge.
“Plaintiffs’ fantastical position insults the intelligence of this court and irresponsibly defames the reputations of both Judge Troemper and Mr. Tucker,” Nester wrote.
He wrote that plaintiffs desperately accused the Bar of asserting privilege to protect State Farm’s manipulation and abuse of its judicial evaluation process.
“Plaintiffs fail to explain what ISBA’s purported motivation would be in supposedly concealing State Farm’s alleged behavior,” he wrote.
He wrote that their position requires leaps of logic “so implausible as to border on fantasy.”
“One must first assume that despite being consummate professionals, the members intended to exercise the purported bias, to the detriment of their reputations and careers, to benefit State Farm despite having taken an oath to act impartially in their duties as judicial evaluation committee members,” he wrote.
“Next, one must infer that the members somehow knew that the election of Justice Karmeier, as opposed to Justice Maag, would benefit State Farm.”
While the Bar resists depositions of Troemper and Tucker, State Farm resists them for current committee member Alan Sternberg and former member Robert Shultz.
Shultz, formerly with Heyl Royster in Edwardsville, is a vice president at State Farm.
Sternberg retired as State Farm's associate general counsel in 2010. He has been a committee member for 22 years.
State Farm counsel Patrick Cloud, of Heyl Royster, reacted to the plaintiff brief as warmly as Nester on Dec. 18.
“Plaintiffs’ overheated accusations are devoid of any factual support,” Cloud wrote.
“Plaintiffs claim there is hard evidence of this manipulation. Nonsense; there is none.”
He wrote that State Farm never retained Tucker or Troemper.
“Plaintiffs represent that Mr. Tucker is a local counsel who was regularly retained by State Farm, based, apparently, on an out of date Martindale link referring to work performed long ago by a different lawyer at his firm,” Cloud wrote.
“Mr. Tucker represents clients with interests adverse to State Farm.”
He wrote that plaintiffs point to Troemper’s time at Heyl Royster but they overlook that she was at a different firm in 2002, when she joined the committee.
He wrote that Sternberg and Shultz were two of 17 committee members at a meeting on evaluations of Karmeier and Maag.
“Basic math: two members cannot out-vote fifteen others,” Cloud wrote.
He wrote that a separate Bar poll of 676 lawyers also rated Karmeier more favorably.
“Plaintiffs try to justify these subpoenas by arguing they will show that State Farm secretly misinformed and defrauded the public,” Cloud wrote.
“That is demonstrably false, but it is also irrelevant.
“This is not a case about voter fraud.”
He wrote that plaintiffs claim State Farm misled the Illinois Supreme Court, not the public.
Lead plaintiff Mark Hale alleges that State Farm fraudulently secured Karmeier’s election so the Supreme Court would overturn a billion dollar judgment against the insurer.
Hale seeks triple damages and interest, for a total near $8 billion.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams plans a Jan. 2 hearing on the depositions.
He manages discovery for District Judge David Herndon, who would preside over a trial.