A legal reform advocate was in O’Fallon Friday speaking to a conservative group on issues ranging from lawsuit lending legislation to the reputation of the courts in Madison and St. Clair counties.
Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, indicated that the most significant legal reform topic currently under consideration in Springfield has to do with regulating the lawsuit lending industry.
A hearing on two competing proposals was held last month and both measures have since been referred to the House Rules Committee.
A bill supported by business interests, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, seeks to cap the annual percentage rate that financiers can charge consumers at 36 percent. On the flip side, an industry bill would allow financiers to charge 36 percent “plus a deferment fee not to exceed 3 percent for each month the funding is outstanding with compounding to occur no more often than monthly.”
Akin said the finance industry’s measure could cost consumers up to 200 percent in interest.
Because of “exorbitant” charges, he said that consumers can sometimes end up owing more to lenders than what is initially offered in settlement of a case.
“Sometimes there is not enough to cover litigation costs,” he said.
“Everybody’s got to get paid.”
He said settlement costs are driven up if a consumer has to continue to pursue litigation in order to “have something to show for it.”
Akin also discussed his optimism for making Madison County “less of a hellhole” under the leadership of the court’s new Chief Judge Dave Hylla.
Hylla was elected to the spot by fellow circuit judges after Judge Ann Callis stepped down and announced her bid for Congress.
“Hylla has a good reputation and we are happy with his choice,” Akin said.
“Hopefully he will take up the mantel of reform. We really need judges to step it up making Madison County less of a hellhole.”
Akin cited the court’s asbestos docket as a primary reason for its reputation, saying that 25 percent of the nation’s entire caseload is filed in Madison County.
“That is not acceptable,” he said.
Akin’s presentation to the O’Fallon Pachyderm Club was followed by one from former State Rep. Paul Evans, an attorney in O’Fallon.