EAST ST. LOUIS – U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams denied privilege for 52 messages between lawyers and researchers who claim State Farm corruptly secured the election of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004.
On May 29, Williams removed the messages from a privilege log that lead plaintiff Mark Hale filed in an $8 billion racketeering suit against State Farm.
Hale had argued that they qualified for privilege as work product.
Williams classified 31 messages as public relations.
He ruled that 16 qualified for First Amendment protection, meaning State Farm could see them but would keep them confidential.
He ruled that five involved both public relations and First Amendment.
He postponed production of the messages, pending a hearing on June 19.
According to court filings in the case, State Farm suspects the messages will show that Hale filed the suit after a statute of limitations ran out.
Hale sued in 2012, claiming State Farm fraudulently secured Karmeier’s election in order to overturn a $1 billion class action judgment from Williamson County.
His lawyers seek 16 years of interest and triple damages.
They claim they didn’t know the full extent of State Farm’s support for Karmeier until 2011, when the Supreme Court denied a petition to reopen the case.
Most of the 52 messages on the privilege log will turn the clock back to 2005, after Karmeier’s election but before he and other Justices reversed the judgment.
Other messages will shed light on events in 2011.
Researchers Doug Wojcieszak and Tom Denton sent and received the messages, usually in exchange with Chicago lawyer Robert Clifford.
Williams announced his decision at a hearing on May 29, and later issued an order identifying each message.
He ruled that on June 19, he would also take up a motion Hale filed against State Rep. Dwight Kay.
Hale wants the court to hold Kay in contempt for failure to produce documents about his role in Karmeier’s election.