The $110 million defamation lawsuit filed by Gordon E. Maag, who lost a costly and contentious race for Illinois Supreme Court justice last November, was dismissed by Seventh Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley today.
The lawsuit, filed in Madison County Circuit Court, named the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, its chairman Ronald Gidwitz and treasurer Gregory W. Baise, as well as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce as defendants.
Maag complained that a campaign flyer distributed in Madison and St. Clair counties in October, identified as, "Wheels of Justice," defamed and injured Maag's reputation. The flyer stated, "Gordon Maag’s record on crime: embarrassing-and dangerous.”
“The court can sympathize with Maag’s displeasure with the flyer, it harshly criticizes a number of his rulings in a crass and unreasonable manner," Kelley wrote in his order to dismiss. "No judge in the State of Illinois could look at the flyer and not find it appalling.
“But the issue here is not whether materials such as the flyer are appropriate in judicial campaigns, that perhaps is for others to decide.
“The issue is much more narrow, does plaintiff have a cause of action for defamation based on the contents of the flyer? The court finds he does not.”
In the suit, Maag claimed that the defendants knew the statements made in the flyer were false.
“The statements were published with reckless disregard of the truth; and furthermore, these statements and the publication containing the statements, in its entirety, were part and parcel of a continuing course of defamatory attacks on plaintiff’s reputation,” Maag's suit alleged.
Maag claimed that as a result of the statements in the flyer--for which he was claiming damages of $10 million--he suffered personal humiliation, mental anguish and suffering. He claimed that he has lost large sums of money in earnings from his prior position as appellate court judge and earnings from his profession, and has lost and will continue to lose health benefits and pension benefits.
Punitive or exemplary damages in the amount of $100 million were being sought because statements were false and malicious and defendants knew they were false, and intended to harm him, according to Maag.
"Had Maag been a private citizen and not a candidate for political office, the flyer would constitue defamation because it imputes both an inability to perform the duties of office or employment and a lack of ability in his profession," Kelley wrote.