MARION - Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) is joining with mayors and community leaders this week for a statewide public education tour to promote "Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week" and this year's theme of "Good Judges Matter," according to the group's executive director Travis Akin.
Dozens of mayors across Illinois have issued official proclamations declaring the first week of October as "Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week" and are joining with I-LAW to encourage voters to become educated about the positions, backgrounds and backers of judicial candidates on the ballot, Akin said in a prepared statement.
O'Fallon Mayor Gary Graham and Godfrey Mayor Michael McCormick are among Illinois mayors who signed proclamations, according to Akin.
I-LAW will also be driving a Good Judges Matter billboard truck across the state and will distribute Good Judges Matter voter education guides in front of courthouses, he said.
Akin said a press conference in front of the Williamson County courthouse with Marion Mayor Bob Butler and Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter was scheduled to kick off the tour and discuss the importance of the upcoming judicial elections.
"The Illinois economy continues to suffer from our state's costly reputation for unfair courts and jackpot justice," Akin said.
"But the judges and judicial candidates on the ballot this November can play a big role in restoring fairness to our courts, which will in turn create jobs here.
"Too many judges have allowed the personal injury lawyers to turn our courts into their own personally profitable playground."
Belleville attorney and Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Greg Shevlin took issue with Akin's comment.
"That's a ridiculous statement," Shevlin said. "It impugns the integrity of every judge on the bench. If he has specific examples, he should point them out. He never does."
Shevlin went on to say that the "agenda" of Akin and I-LAW is to create a negative perception of the judiciary.
"It's important for people to know about the judges they're voting for, he said.
But, he said, voters should seek out information from various sources, not from a group "with an agenda."
In a press release, Akin pointed to a recent report conducted by the market research firm Harris Interactive which ranked Illinois 46th out of all 50 states for legal fairness. Akin said the survey shows that Illinois' lawsuit climate ranked beneath every bordering state including: Indiana (14), Iowa (10), Kentucky (38), Missouri (34) and Wisconsin (15).
"Electing good judges who apply doctrines of common sense and fairness will help Illinois shed its image as a 'lawsuit magnet' and 'personal injury lawyer's paradise,'" Akin said. "In these difficult economic times, Illinois needs to be a magnet for jobs, not lawsuits."