One judge's wife is one too many

By The Madison County Record | Sep 19, 2010

"The only people I trust are you and me, and I'm not sure about you."

"The only people I trust are you and me, and I'm not sure about you."

The old gag captures the spirit of paranoia -- as does the counter gag, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

It has a point. Who can you trust? How many people would you trust with your fate, empowering them to make decisions about your life, your finances, etc.? You probably would have doubts about giving such power even to family members, maybe especially to family members.

Before we trust our fate to someone else, we strive to be certain that person has no vested interest that could betray that trust.

When persons who step forward as arbiters appear to have vested interests in the outcome of a decision, it's expected that objections will be raised by one or both of the parties. The arbiters in question may have sterling characters and spotless records, but the appearance of a conflict suffices to cause concern and usually prompts persons of rectitude to remove themselves from consideration or preferably to not get involved in the first place.

Thus did U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl recuse himself from a contractual dispute between two trucking companies back in the 1990s because of his association with the plaintiff, a fellow St. Clair County Republican.

U.S. District Court Judge G. Patrick Murphy was not so high-minded a few years back when he remained at the helm of an East St. Louis vote-buying case whose defendants were represented by Belleville attorney Bruce Cook, Murphy's close friend and fellow Democrat.

Now court records reflect that Judge Murphy's lawyer wife, Patricia, has joined the team of class action lawyers suing the manufacturers of atrazine within her husband's federal jurisdiction. Murphy's fellow judges can try to overlook that connection, but why should a class action defendant be obliged to extend such trust?

You don't have to be paranoid to be suspicious. Especially in Madison County.

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