Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder said in a prepared statement that she would be returning campaign contributions she received from asbestos attorneys that came shortly after she issued a ruling favorable to those attorneys.

Crowder, who had presided over the court's asbestos docket for more than a year, was reassigned to chancery, miscellaneous remedies and eminent domain cases on Monday.

Asbestos lawyers from the Simmons firm of Alton, and the Goldenberg firm and Gori & Julian of Edwardsville, contributed a total of $30,000 days after Crowder assigned them a large majority of trial settings for 2013.

She issued the following statement regarding her reassignment from the asbestos docket:

"It is a sad fact of modern political life that all candidates, including judges, must fundraise for their campaigns. In Illinois, judges cannot personally raise funds – that is done by their campaign committees. Judges do not participate in the fundraising.

"As my retention campaign got underway, my committee began the process of raising funds. This fundraising was not related to, or coordinated with, my activities on the bench.

"Unfortunately, the timing of some campaign donations and the entry of a scheduling order have led some to speculate that there might be some relation between them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"However, I recognize that the unfortunate timing could provoke some to suspect that something inappropriate had occurred. Therefore, to address those concerns, I am returning those donations.

"Furthermore, the chairman of my campaign, my devoted husband, who has assisted me in everything I have ever run for, is stepping down from this office at his request. Rather than risk having anyone conclude that there must be some connection between the political activities of my committee and my rulings, he will no longer serve in that capacity.

"It is regrettable that the intrusion of money into politics can result in an individual's actions being misconstrued. At all times, my rulings from the bench have been based solely on my view of the law and the facts, and I believe those who have practiced in front of me would support this statement."

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