Officials from the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) and members of a newly created Madison County medical malpractice committee met last week in Chicago to discuss problems involving the judicial system and lawsuits against doctors and hospitals.
Ed Murnane, president of the ICJL, seemed encouraged that committee members -- Madison County Circuit Judge Dave Hylla (chairman), Associate Judges Tom Chapman and Steve Stobbs -- as well as Chief Judge Ann Callis, were willing to hear his group's concerns.
In 2004, the ICJL published a study of lawsuits against doctors and hospitals in Madison and St. Clair counties between 2000 and 2003.
"Judge Hylla – who would have reason not to be eager to cooperate with us since we aggressively opposed his election in November – not only was willing to receive whatever information and suggestions we had, but he also was willing and anxious to meet with us to discuss his committee's objectives," Murnane wrote in a commentary earlier this week.
"And joining us for the meeting...was Chief Judge Callis herself, who wanted to show her interest in the subject and to stress her commitment to ongoing reform," Murnane wrote.
Callis indicated the get-together was time well spent.
"I thought the meeting was productive in that it continued the dialogue, that we want to establish, with all groups interested in the work of this committee," Callis said. "Judge Hylla, Judge Chapman and Judge Stobbs are doing an outstanding job in gathering all relevant views for this cohesive effort."
Murnane wrote that some observers would not have expected such a cordial summit.
"But that's what happened and the willingness of the Madison County judges to meet, to listen, to acknowledge problems in the past and to look for even more ways to improve judicial matters in one of the nations' most reviled jurisdictions bodes well for Madison County residents, for Illinoisans … indeed, for anyone who understands why Madison County has been branded as a 'judicial hellhole'," he wrote.
Murnane indicated the judges on the med-mal committee have already met with local doctors and hospital personnel, including members of S.M.A.S.H. -- the doctors' organization that was highly mobilized in the last two judicial elections.
He said the judges "expressed willingness – even eagerness" to meet with leadership of the Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Hospital Association.
Murnane said his meeting with the judges went beyond health care and to the subject of the other "reforms" that Callis has enacted in Madison County.
"We indicated that there is some skepticism that all of the election-year reforms are significant and said that the Illinois Civil Justice League plans to (1) survey some of our legal allies on the value/benefit of the latest reforms in Madison County and (2) ask these same legal allies for suggestions as to other steps the judges themselves can take without seeking approval or action by the Illinois General Assembly," he wrote.
"We'll present those findings and any recommendations to the Madison County judges for their consideration. They made no commitment to enact any recommendations but they did agree to accept and review what we offer."