To the Editor:
In December 2011, Judge Callis moved Judge Crowder to a different court from the asbestos docket after she received large donations she subsequently returned.
Although Crowder claimed no wrong doing, I began to wonder about the Madison County judicial system.
So, on April 3, I visited the Madison County Courthouse to determine what lawyer or firms contributed heavily to certain judges either before or after appearing in their courtroom.
What I found astounded me. Although the Illinois State Board of Elections makes it easy to determine who contributes to a judicial campaign, Madison County court records make it hard for the public to determine which contributors appeared in their courts.
Currently there is no chronological alphabetized list of what law firms or lawyers appear in a judge's courtroom. When I suggested such a list might be useful, court staff they replied, "We don't do it that way," and suggested I write a letter to Judge Callis.
I grow concerned the Madison County legal system insulates itself from a concern for transparency and a standard for judges above reproach.
Do you think it strange the Board of Elections provides a list of firms and lawyers who contribute to a judge's campaign, but courthouse recordkeeping makes it difficult to determine which firms and lawyers appear before a judge?
Surely, given the high salaries paid to staff, such a list would not be hard to construct.
Do you think the public should be able to compare an alphabetized chronological list of lawyers and firms that appeared before a judge to a list of firms or lawyers who contributed to their campaign without spending hundreds of hours of research?
Philip W. Chapman