The most recent edition of the Madison - St. Clair Record included an editorial submitted by Travis Akin that was entitled “It’s Official: Madison County Ranked one of the nation’s worst ‘Judicial Hellholes.’”  Not only was the submission an all too predictable regurgitation of standard fare for the Record, it was also an exercise in the disingenuous. 

In his opinion piece, (anything branding something as a “Hellhole” is truly nothing more than an opinion piece), Akin tries to convince readers that the ailments that have befallen our county can be traced to unworthy plaintiffs attempting to soak local business of their hard earned dollars.  He also blames this on the failure of local judges to “take steps to restore fairness and common sense to our courts.”

What could be more fair and how much common sense does one need to know that making defendants pay for turning a county into not a “judicial hellhole” but a “hellhole in general” is the very definition of justice?

Unlike our fifth-place ranking as a “Judicial Hellhole,” we take first place in the category of “Environmental Hellhole.”  Madison County routinely ties or surpasses only one other county (Los Angeles) in the United States for “highest cancer risk in the nation” due to air quality.  This information is collected and disseminated by the EPA at the federal and state level as well as by numerous independent organizations. 

The American Tort Reform Foundation, cited by Mr. Akin and unlike the EPA, is funded by big business with the sole goal of preventing lawsuits from plaintiffs injured by negligent business practices.  Their disingenuous goal to bring “greater fairness, predictability, and efficiency to the civil justice system” can be clearly exposed when one looks at those who fund their efforts.  For instance, The Washington Legal Foundation, backers of ARTF, states first and foremost that their goal is the “shaping of public policy through aggressive litigation and advocacy.” 

The justice system should only recognize advocates of business?  Aggressive litigation should only be utilized by business?

Arguing that “plaintiffs” have somehow made Madison County a hellhole is like arguing that the victims of terrorist attacks are the problem in Afghanistan.  If only all those dang amputees would quit complaining about having their limbs blown off, this would be a nice place to live.  Ridiculous! 

Our county is a hellhole because of corrupt, irresponsible, and immoral business practices allowed to persist for far too many years.  For far too long business “leaders” have been allowed to run roughshod over this county with almost no defense for workers or citizens. 

We the citizens have had to watch as refineries, smelters, landfills, and other industries have been allowed to indiscriminately poison the water, air, and earth of Madison County.  How many “boil order” effects do we need to experience, how many windows need to be covered with sheets and towels just so people can breathe in their own home, how many times does one need to watch raindrops foam when hitting the ground before we realize that this insanity has to stop?

We the citizens have had to watch as a multitude of corporate welfare programs have been instituted for the enjoyment of “business.”  How many programs do we have to be taxed for so that business does not have to chip in for the damage they have caused? How many sewer renovation projects does the taxpayer need to fund in this county so that businesses can continue to forego their responsibility as the ones that created the need for said projects? 

 How many of our homes, cars, and other personal possessions need to be slowly destroyed and how many of our loved ones need to die before it is determined that someone should be held accountable?

We the citizens are actually pretty damned docile when we ask simply for a redress of grievances in our public court system.  Anyone who claims otherwise is a disingenuous shill.

Shane Steel


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