February 18th was a big day for folks in Madison County.
It was Ash Wednesday, of course, and the beginning of Lent. For some of us, that meant big sacrifices like giving up bologna sandwiches on Fridays and settling for grilled salmon or fried cod and jumbo shrimp at Ravanelli's in Granite City, Collinsville, or O'Fallon.
But February 18th had added significance for us locally, because it represented the 10-year anniversary of something else we gave up: our addiction to class action suits.
Ten years ago, on February 18, 2005, President George W. Bush came to Madison County to sign the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) into law.
"Madison County juries are responsible for awarding large verdicts," Bush affirmed. "And the vast majority [of plaintiffs] are not from Madison County."
CAFA shifted from state to federal courts most class action lawsuits involving geographically dispersed plaintiffs and damages expected to exceed $5 million.
Bush promised that the bill would "help protect people who are wrongfully harmed while reducing the frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts, hurt the economy, cost jobs, and burden American businesses."
He was right. That's exactly what CAFA did. In the process, it also undermined Madison County's dubious distinction as a venue of choice for forum shoppers.
By 2006, the number of cases filed in Madison County had dropped from its 2003 high of 106 to just three. Last year, there were only six such cases filed locally.
There may be some plaintiffs attorneys around the country who are still feeling the effects of CAFA withdrawal, but kicking the class action habit has been a blessing for the rest of us.
The next thing we should give up is our allegiance to those self-serving politicians in Springfield who keep raising our taxes, driving productive businesses out of Illinois, and destroying opportunity for us and our children.
We might find that we're better off without them, too.