According to the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), Madison County has come a long way in five years.
"The criticism we hear around the state about the court system not being open falls flat in Madison County," said Ed Murnane, president of the organization. Murnane and ICJL Vice President Al Adomite will tell members of the county's Judiciary Committee just that at a presentation Friday morning.
The legal watchdog group will present findings on lawsuit reform and data on online access to court dockets at the committee's regular meeting at 8:30 a.m.
While Madison County's civil dockets had swelled to its second highest number of lawsuits in 2003, with more than 2,000 -- not including asbestos cases -- the county has greatly reduced its caseload, the two said.
According to Murnane, the decrease in lawsuit filings can be attributed to changes wrought by Madison County's circuit judges. He noted Chief Judge Ann Callis and Madison County Judge Daniel Stack specifically.
"I think they're making great strides there," Murnane said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The ICJL analyzes the number of case loads statewide using records from the state Supreme Court.
According to Adomite, Madison County's numbers, aside from asbestos, have been steadily falling over the last five years. If the cases were to fall by another 50 or so, he said, the county, which is notorious in legal circles for its loaded civil dockets, would meet the average set by most of the state's other counties with the exception of Cook County.
"It's not a plaintiff's paradise anymore," Murnane said.
Madison County scores high marks in online access to the courts, said Murnane and Adomite. The county is one of those piloting a new program to e-file legal documents.
"Madison County is a leader in that respect," Adomite said.
Even with the improvements, the group is still troubled by the high asbestos numbers, cases they say inflate the county's lawsuit numbers.
"I won't say we're all the way there yet but the numbers speak for themselves," Adomite said.
The judiciary committee meets in the County Administration building in Edwardsville.