We've got good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?
The good news? The judicial system in Madison County has improved.
The bad news? It's arguably worse than anywhere else in the state.
As reported last week in The Record, the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) recently praised Madison County for improving its transparency and public access. Two longtime critics from the group, President Ed Murnane and Vice President Al Adomite, announced our courthouse on Main Street is no longer a judicial "hellhole."
That dubious honor was bestowed a few years back by the American Tort Reform Association. Madison and St. Clair counties were labeled "hellholes" because of their activist judges and their excessive number of asbestos and class action lawsuits.
While things have improved, St. Clair County still has twice as many lawsuits filed (per capita) than the average Illinois county; Madison County (pop. 265,000) has four times as many.
According to Adomite, an asbestos case is 135 times more likely to be filed in Edwardsville than in Chicago, seat of Cook County and home to some 5.3 million people. Additionally, 90 percent of the asbestos cases filed in Madison County have no connection to Madison County.
Reform legislation that could resolve some of the issues has been introduced at the state level and has stalled, repeatedly. Nevertheless, things are better than before.
"The trend in Madison County has been very positive," said Mumane. "Things are really looking up," Adomite added.
That's good news. But it needs to be better, and the citizens of the Metro-East need to stay vigilant. We do congratulate the good people responsible for the improvements in Madison and St. Clair counties.
Edwardsville may no longer be a judicial "hellhole," but it's still a kind of legal purgatory. It has a long way to go to reach the justice-side of heaven.