The election of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, passage of medical malpractice insurance reform and recent high court rulings are signs the legal climate in Illinois is transforming.

“The pendulum is swinging the right way,” said Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley.

Before a group of local chamber members on Tuesday in Fairview Heights, Whitley said the statewide business advocacy group would capitalize on that momentum by lobbying for venue and jury service reforms during the next legislative session.

“The election of Lloyd Karmeier was a bellwether election in southern Illinois,” Whitley said. “I am here to tell you about significant change as a result of that election.

“The spotlight is on the judiciary.”

Whitley said the recently enacted medical malpractice reform bill—capping damages at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals—is only a step at improving the state’s business climate.

The Metro-East doctor exodus crisis, driven by skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums, was the “poster child for what is wrong with the system,” he said.

“The issues resonate with Joe Citizen, and that is powerful.”

In order to improve the perception that the legal environment is unfavorable to business in Illinois—it ranked 46 out of 50 states in a recent Harris poll—the chamber promotes further legal reform.

“We have an image problem,” said Whitley. “When the president comes to Madison County to talk about judicial reform and when the president has a forum in Washington and by name talks about Madison County…that’s not the reputation we want to have in Illinois.”

Whitley said the chamber is backing passage of a law that defines appropriate venue for filing lawsuits in state courts.

Jury service reform legislation should be aimed at eliminating barriers for employers so that a greater cross section of people can serve on juries.

Similar measures have already been introduced in previous Illinois General Assemblies, but have not advanced.

Whitley said Illinois is not capturing job growth at the same pace as other states, in spite of rich infrastructure and geographical advantages. The cost of doing business in Illinois is one of the factors for that stagnation, he said.

“There are economic consequences to political decisions,” he said. “Politicians don’t always connect the dots.”

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