The American Tort Reform Association has launched its annual survey to determine which legal jurisdictions in the U.S. are considered "judicial hellholes" by the legal community -- or at least that part of the legal community that does not believe that rampant litigation with unlimited awards is the best way to solve disputes.
ATRA announces its list each year in December and last year, the most newsworthy element of the report was the removal of a perennial "hellhole" from the list.
Madison County was dropped from the "hellholes" list after a stint at or near the top of the list that almost retired the cup, or trophy, or whatever it is that "winners" might receive.
Those of us who follow Madison County's judicial system closely were thrilled that one of the most notorious judicial systems in the U.S. -- not just Illinois -- was improving and was getting credit for that improvement.
To the extent that entities such as the Illinois Civil Justice League were acknowledged as part of the reform movement that resulted in this improvement, so much the better.
In fact, we rejoiced. But...was the celebration premature?
The recent legal news from Madison County creates some doubt.
Admittedly, because the Madison County Record watches the Madison County Courthouse through a magnifying glass (and keep it up, guys (and girl)), there are more news headlines from the Courthouse than day-to-day observers would expect.
But here are some of the headlines just from the past two weeks:
Crowder Certifies Liberty Mutual Class Action
Stack Certifies Class Action Against Hartford Insurance
Stack Allows Atrazine Class Actions To Go Forward,
But Leaves Door Open For Defendants
To be clear, these are simply news headlines and do not reflect negatively -- or positively -- on the conduct of the court system.
But these reports do indicate that Madison County is still getting cases that are not filed in most other jurisdictions in Illinois (except for Cook and St. Clair) and if the attitude within the plaintiffs' bar is that Madison County is still a friendly (rather than a fair) environment, that might suggest that more work needs to be done by those who advocate fairness.
As a board member of the American Tort Reform Association, I do not want to see Madison County back on the "judicial hellholes" list.
Our current objective in Illinois is to get St. Clair and Cook Counties off the list.