U.S. District Judge David Herndon rejected former state
election board director Ronald Michaelson as a witness for State Farm at trial
in a $9 billion claim that the insurer corrupted the Illinois Supreme Court.
On June 2, Herndon barred a report that Michaelson wrote and
testimony he would have provided at a class action trial set for next year.
“His observations do not rise to the level of expert
testimony and will not help the fact finder,” Herndon wrote.
Lead plaintiff Mark Hale claims State Farm secretly secured
the election of Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004, in order to overturn a $1
billion verdict. In the original case, Williamson County jurors
found State Farm supplied inferior parts for crash repairs.
Hale seeks to recover the judgment with interest from 1999
and triple damages under racketeering law.
He moved to exclude Michaelson, formerly a top assistant to
governor Richard Ogilvie, and Herndon disposed of Michaelson with a rough
Hendon called Michaelson’s report nothing more than a
summary and observations of what appeared to come from what he gleaned from the
“Clearly, his observations are a recitation of publically (sic)
available campaign contribution information with an editorial,” Herndon wrote.
“It appears to the court that he has done no probing, he has
not compared those records with the discovery in the case and he has not done
any independent analysis.
“In fact, Michaelson concedes that he was not supplied with,
nor did he have, seek or use more information than the summary of contributions
maintained by the Illinois State Board of Elections in formulating his
“Simply, he has performed a rudimentary analysis/report that
contains bias that can be associated with the consulting fee paid to him.”
Herndon included the observations he rejected.
Michaelson observed that:
-The state parties contributed almost $4.75 million to
Republican candidate Karmeier and Democrat candidate Gordon Maag.
-Two political action committees combined for about $2.5
-Contributions of trial bar firms and lawyers to the
campaign and the Democratic Party were especially significant and substantial
in the final two weeks of the campaign; and
-Plaintiff’s counsel were significant contributors not only
to Maag but also in other elections and retentions.
“As compared to Maag, the Karmeier campaign had a much
broader contribution base,” Michaelson observed. “It had more individual
contributors, relying far less on in-kind contributions.
“Hundreds of business interests certainly played a major
role, but there was not concentration of influence as there was in the Maag
Michaelson further observed that:
-In Karmeier’s retention campaign in 2014, Karmeier had 111
contributors and the campaign against him had 16;
-Karmeier’s contributors gave $309,000, and anti-Karmeier
contributors, all trial bar interests, gave $2.7 million; and
-State Farm contributed no money to Karmeier or a political
action committee that supported him. Employees individually contributed $5,700.
While Herndon excluded Michaelson, he denied motions to
exclude University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter and economist
Lauren Stiroh as experts for State Farm.
Painter’s report stated that a class action is not a
superior method for adjudicating whether Karmeier adhered to ethical standards
or whether the Supreme Court adhered to due process.
“Furthermore, plaintiff’s counsel’s campaign contributions
against Justice Karmeier create an insurmountable conflict of interest that
prevents class counsel from adequately representing the class in advancing the
argument that contributions require recusal and must be disclosed by all
parties to a recusal motion,” Painter wrote.
Stiroh’s report stated that if Karmeier had recused himself,
the Supreme Court would not have fully affirmed an appellate court decision
against State Farm.
She wrote that the Justices would have unanimously decided
not to affirm a nationwide class certification for breach of contract.
According to Stiroh, they would have unanimously decided not
to affirm damages.She also wrote that they unanimously agreed that Illinois
consumer fraud law could not apply to policyholders outside Illinois.
Herndon struck 12 paragraphs of her report for invading his
province, and did not include them in the order.