Jimmy Durante had a stock response when someone tried to horn in on his performance: "Everybody wants to get into the act!"

Madison County has an act that's a bad act and we wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It's the asbestos lawsuit court of choice act that led to our designation as a "judicial hellhole" and our reputation as an unfriendly environment for business. It's an act we're struggling to replace with more thoughtful fare.

It looked like a good act to some at first, as it was an easy way to generate revenue in a depressed local economy. What we had to do was accommodate those plaintiffs attorneys from across the country seeking easy access to our courts. All they wanted was an inviting courthouse filled with friendly judges and friendly juries capable of obese awards for dubious damages.

But our success got the better of us. It turned us into a venal people. We're worse off now than we were before, and we have lost our community self-respect in the bargain. Like Esau, we sold our birthright for a mess of pottage.

We can't undo our unsavory past, but going forward we can be honest and industrious and we can discourage others – like the citizens of McLean County -- from following in our foolish footsteps.

The citizens of McLean County, northeast of us, should learn from our mistakes, and they should learn quickly.

Recently, McLean County Circuit Judge Paul Lawrence directed an asbestos-related verdict against Honeywell International and jurors shortly after awarded more than $4 million to the plaintiff. That's just the latest example. Some judges of McLean County seem anxious to get into the plaintiff-friendly act.

If they do, the home of State Farm Insurance, Beer Nuts, and the I.S.U. Redbirds may end up being known as a judicial hellhole.

They better take it from us, they don't want to go there.

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