By Paul Scheeler
I-LAW State Director
Prior to Election Day, we heard judicial candidates claim they embraced the principle of restoring balance and fairness to our courts. Voters pressed them to know whether they would update rules to make it harder for out-of-state personal injury law firms to dump frivolous lawsuits in our courts.
On Election Day, judges were elected or retained by voters who are sick and tired of Illinois being nationally known as the "lawsuit abuse capital of the Midwest" and Madison County having a reputation as one of the country's top "judicial hellholes.
Another study earlier this year by the Harris Company ranked Illinois 45th out of all 50 state for legal fairness – by far the worst ranking of any state in the Midwest.
Voters realize how these dismal rankings impact Illinois, and hope judges' campaign promises weren't just empty rhetoric. Citizens also expect that the progress made to date locally from common-sense reforms will not be undone.
In Madison County, class action lawsuits -- many of which had little or no connection to the area – plummeted from an average of 81 cases annually to just a handful in 2006.
Part of the reason is that some judges have taken a stand against abuse of the civil justice system by personal injury lawyers who have long targeted Madison County as a place to strike it rich playing the "lawsuit lottery."
Without such reforms, companies will continue to think twice about expanding or relocating here. And as long as Illinois retains its reputation as a magnet for lawsuits, our state will be at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the midwest and good job opportunities will remain scarce.
This is why citizens will be watching carefully to see if judges are interested in real reform by standing up to the powerful plaintiffs' bar and implementing common sense solutions to Illinois' lawsuit abuse problem.
By insisting on genuine reform, voters can hold elected officials accountable and make sure Illinois is once again known as the Land of Lincoln and not the Land of Lawsuits.