A legal watchdog group and local law makers will participate in a panel discussion on a bill dealing with campaign donations to judges at noon Friday at Ravenelli's Restaurant in O'Fallon.

The discussion is intended to highlight reform efforts that would ensure judges do not have the appearance of impropriety, according to organizer Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

"...Madison County Judge Barbara Crowder created a national stir in December when she awarded 82 percent of the 2013 asbestos slots to three law firms that donated to her campaign," Akin said in a statement. "She later returned the donations, but her actions were considered by many to be 'improper.'"

I-LAW, along with State Reps. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and Paul Evans (R-O'Fallon) and Madison County Board member Mike Walters, will be part of the panel discussing legislative efforts aimed at curbing judges from hearing cases from lawyers who are also campaign contributors.

House Bill 4098, sponsored by Kay and Evans, would require the Illinois Supreme Court to adopt rules requiring attorneys to disclose to the judge and any party to the lawsuit any campaign contributions made to that judge by the attorney or the attorney's law firm. If contributions exceed $500 and were within the past five years, the judge must recuse himself or herself from the case upon the motion of a non-contributing party to the lawsuit.

"Madison County residents need to have confidence in the judicial process and helping to bring real reform to Illinois is the purpose of the panel discussion," Akin said.

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