Circuit Judge Daniel Stack

Since taking over Madison County's asbestos docket a little more than a year ago, Circuit Judge Daniel Stack has made good progress in changing the culture of courtroom extortion that made it famous.

In the process, he's bringing civil justice back to Edwardsville. He is dismissing meritless cases and transferring ones that don't belong out of Madison County.

For that, he is our Man of the Year.

We remember the way it used to be. Plaintiffs sued, defendants settled, and lawyers made out with too much of the loot-- bragging all the way to the bank about how smart they were.

Judge Nicholas Byron, anti-corporate crusader and self-anointed protector of consumers the nation over, ran the asbestos docket before Stack.

Chummy plaintiff's lawyers smiling nearby, Judge Byron liked to cajole asbestos defendants into settling their cases. He liked to suggest that avoiding trial was in their best interest. So long as Byron was in charge, such advice was difficult to ignore.

Many asbestos defendants strongly believed in their own innocence. But they also knew how Byron felt about them. And they had heard about the $250 million Madison County jury verdict against U.S. Steel in a 2003 asbestos case.

Byron presided over that trial. He couldn't say he didn't warn them.

The Illinois Supreme Court's recent demolition of Byron's $10.1 billion bench verdict against Philip Morris USA serves as more proof that Byron has been a menace to our court and society.

What a difference a man makes!

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