In the land of lawsuit abuse, Illinois inched up one place from 46th to 45th place in the annual Harris State Liability Systems Ranking Study released Monday.

But at a press conference announcing the findings, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue referred to Madison County as being "as crooked as a dog's hind leg."

The Harris Poll, which questions more than 1,400 corporate lawyers on state's legal fairness, showed that Illinois, West Virginia, Louisiana, California, and Texas were among the worst states for legal fairness.

Replaced by West Virginia, Mississippi moved off last place in reforms, according to the new ranking of the best and worst state legal systems.

"This survey sends a clear message to states whose legal climate drives away businesses, jobs, and economic development," said Donohue. "If you want a healthy state economy, clean up your act."

The study found the five top states for overall legal fairness are, in order, Delaware, Nebraska, Virginia, Iowa, and Connecticut.

"Businesses go where they are welcome," said Donohue. "One of the most welcoming features of a state is a fair legal system. When businesses set up shop in your state, they bring jobs, an expanded tax base, and economic vitality."

The 2006 State Liability Systems Ranking Study was conducted by Harris Interactive for the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform. The survey, now in its fifth year, polled more than 1,400 senior attorneys to explore how reasonable and fair the tort liability system is perceived to be by U.S. businesses.

The attorneys were asked to judge a number of factors, including overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits, judges' impartiality and competence, and juries' predictability and fairness.

ILR is launching a national advertising campaign highlighting the results of the study and the need for comprehensive legal reform. The print campaign will feature the message "Please Don't Feed the Trial Lawyers."

The Madison County Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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