ITLA: Flaws in I-LAW's commentary

By Peter J. Flowers | May 9, 2010


In his most recent editorial, Travis Akin claims to have found the real cause of Illinois' economic woes – and it may surprise you to learn our problems are not caused by the state's budget crisis, by the rocky national economy, or by the global recession. Nope.

According to Akin, the cause of Illinois' problems is you. Or more precisely, you exercising your right to justice.

Akin claims the state's 13 percent unemployment is such because businesses avoid Illinois. And the reason? Well, because of "jackpot justice," he says. Our court system is so unruly that no new business will open up shop here. Although, there is no proof to this silly claim,

Akin has a ready audience in those special interests who would like nothing more than shut the courthouse door to the average citizen.

According to Akin and the big business lobbyists that fund his organization, the court system is an affront to business sensibilities. Using the term "jackpot justice" to describe awards given to victims of medical malpractice or corporate negligence shows their contempt for the pain and suffering those victims endured.

Ask the parents of a child permanently disabled by someone's negligent behavior if the award given to care for that child for the rest for its life is a "jackpot." Ask them if they think anyone has won anything.

The biggest flaw in Akin and his sponsors' arguments is they always choose to ignore how the court system works. Contrary to the picture they paint, trial lawyers are just one element; there's also a judge, a jury, and opposing counsel – and all four have a part in the process.

No award is given to any victim until all the facts have been argued in court, and a judge and jury weigh in on the subject. Apparently, Akin doesn't like either a judge or a jury having any say in the matter, preferring, one presumes, to be the sole arbiter of what is just and what is not.

In an odd turn, Akin drags the framers of our Constitution - and even George Washington – into his argument against a fair and open court system. Is this, he asks, "what our founding fathers envisioned?"

Well, yes Mr. Akin. This is precisely the system they envisioned, and the words of that vision are carved above the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court: "Equal justice under the law."

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