The cynics among us would caution against taking tough talk by new Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis too seriously.
The daughter of prominent plaintiff's attorney Lance Callis, she is, after all, the metaphorical princess of the Madison County Democratic Machine whose years of conniving hand built the Third Circuit's national reputation. That Machine also gave us Judge Callis, who was first appointed to the bench twelve years ago at the ripe age of age 27, hand-picked over a horde of more experienced candidates.
At the time, not-yet-beleagured attorney Gary Peel told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that Callis' appointment was "a slap in the face to the lawyers who paid their dues."
Of course, that was then. Now, such sniping is far in the rear-view mirror, and Callis is where her father hoped she'd eventually be.
What he couldn't have imagined are the stakes. Once ambivalent about courts, Madison County voters are finally beginning to show outrage for the disrepute these elected judges have brought upon their communities. Blame Peel, SimmonsCooper, Stephen Tillery, or Brad Lakin for the torrent of specious litigation that fills up our dockets and earns embarrassing national headlines, but the buck still stops with the folks wearing the black robes.
If plaintiff's attorneys run the show at 301 North Main Street, it's only because the judges let them.
Confronted on a daily basis with circus acts like Ashley and Armettia Peach or insulted in the courtroom by a lawyer before the bench, a judge still hesitates to put their foot down for fear of offending the wrong powerbroker. Provoke, and you'll have a well-funded opponent next time around.
Putting an end to judge shopping is a positive first step towards cleaning up our courts. But if Judge Callis really wants to make them ready for reform, she needs to get our judges back to judging. Only then can they truly earn the respect they require to fulfill their duties to the law and people of Madison County.