Stephen Tillery has a bad habit. It's an addiction, really. He could give it up if he wanted to, but he'd first have to admit he has a problem and seek help in dealing with it.
Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol or sex. Not Tillery. What he's addicted to is tobacco -– not tobacco smoking or chewing, but tobacco litigation.
Tillery is a chain suer. He started suing tobacco companies when he was younger and didn't know any better. It gave him a buzz and made him feel cool and mature. Pretty soon he was hooked and couldn't stop.
Tillery had a perfect chance to quit several years ago, back in 2005, when the Illinois Supreme Court organized an intervention on his behalf, ordering Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron to dismiss Price v. Philip Morris.
Tillery had initiated the suit in 2000, charging that the cigarette manufacturer had misled consumers about the health benefits of light and low-tar cigarettes.
In 2003, Judge Byron awarded more than $10 billion to Tillery's clients, setting aside $1.8 billion in attorney's fees.
With thrills like that, it's easy to see how tobacco litigation can take over a person's life. Nevertheless, the state supreme court's nullification of the award in 2005 was the perfect opportunity for a man with a monkey on his back to face up to the problem and take the first step on the long road to rehabilitation.
But Tillery was in denial and unwilling to abandon his habit. He moved unsuccessfully for a rehearing and, subsequently, sought a U.S. Supreme Court review which also did not succeed.
In December 2006, in compliance with the state supreme court, Judge Byron dismissed the case.
But it did not end there. Tillery moved for relief from the order and the legal maneuvering continued. His most recent rehearing petition is in the courtroom of Madison County Judge Dennis Ruth.
We can only hope that Judge Ruth will deny the petition when he considers it on May 22. It's for Tillery's own good.