Madison County asbestos Judge Clarence Harrison says that a $2,000 donation his campaign committee accepted from the Edwardsville asbestos firm Gori Julian does not pose a conflict of interest.

Harrison, who will be reassigned to the court's Family docket next week, said the remaining asbestos motions he will hear (Wednesday) are from a “completely unrelated firm.”

He said the assignment rotation coincides with the swearing in Oct. 11 of newly appointed Associate Judge Ron Slemer.

Chief Judge Dave Hylla has been contacted for comment about the reassignment of judges but has not returned phone messages.

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections Web site, the Gori Julian donation to Harrison's committee was received today.

Harrison, an associate judge, is actively campaigning for a circuit court seat left vacant when former Chief Judge Ann Callis stepped down in May to run for Congress.

According to the financial disclosure report filed for the campaign committee Citizens for Clarence Harrison, Harrison also donated $20,000; asbestos lawyer Randy Gori’s wife Beth Gori donated $2,500 and the law firm Kurowski and Shultz of Swansea donated $1,000.

When Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs assumes the role of asbestos judge on Oct. 28, it will mark the fourth time since 2010 the docket has gotten a new judge.

Former Circuit Judge Daniel Stack presided over asbestos from 2004 to 2010.

Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder succeeded Stack and held the job for about a year and a half when she was reassigned in December 2011 amid a campaign contribution controversy.

Crowder was under fire for having accepted $30,000 in campaign contributions from lawyers at the area’s top three asbestos firms – one of which was Gori Julian – just days after she made a ruling that was favorable to the firms.

Crowder was reassigned from the asbestos docket, but maintained that nothing improper occurred as a result of the contributions. She also returned the donations from lawyers at Gori Julian, the Simmons firm and the Goldenberg firm.

Harrison succeeded Crowder.


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